Industry Leaders Share Tips on Finding Entrepreneurial Success

  • Copy by: Megan Stokes

Last month, we attended The Southern Coterie’s Spring Summit, a three-day conference where like-minded creatives gathered in Charleston, SC to create, connect, and collaborate. During the various educational sessions and panel discussions, we had the opportunity to hear tips and advice from an impressive handful of creative industry leaders on finding entrepreneurial success through collaborations and smart branding.

We’re the first to admit that it’s sometimes easy to feel like a little fish in a big pond when taking an entrepreneurial career leap, so seeking guidance from those who have been through it is invaluable. Today we’re sharing a few key points we took to heart from professionals you will probably recognize or at least will want to know.

The Southern Coterie is the brainchild of Whitney Long and Cheri Leavy (pictured above, by Chanterelle Photography).

1. Mandy Rye, founder of Waiting on Martha, on growing your audience and engagement:

The mantra “Your social media is your portfolio” was the theme of Mandy’s presentation. The next time you post a photo on social media, Mandy encouraged the audience to first ask, “Does this represent my brand?” If not, don’t post it. Mandy shared various tips on growing your audience and creating an engaging environment that we think should be etched in stone:

  1. Know your demographics and cater to that group.
  2. Pick five brands/bloggers you want to work with and stalk them. Retweet, comment, message, like. Utilize the “three C’s” as she called them: constant conversation = conversion.
  3. Be consistent. Use the same username in all of your social media channels.
  4. Support others, including other brands.
  5. Don’t over do your Instagram posts. Mandy stated, “‘Gram’ at least one time per day, but absolutely no more than 3-4 times, unless you are on an exotic vacation and you just must.”
  6. Never show negativity on social media.

Image via Chanterelle Photography

2. Gwen Whiting and Lindsay Boyd, Founders of The Laundress, on launching a start-up and forging valuable partnerships:

Gwen and Lindsay shared the steps they’ve taken on their quest for success with a line of eco-friendly and cruelty free fabric care and home cleaning products. First, they had a written plan. “You have to have one to be able to launch and execute your ideas. It’s important to get thoughts down on paper.,” said Gwen. Next, they believe that your business partners don’t need to be just like you.

Third, Lindsay stated, “Never be afraid of meetings, whether with potential clients, investors, or with your partners. There may be able a lot of negativity and it might be scary, but there’s always a takeaway.” Their fourth tip was a true testament to the overall “connect and collaborate” theme of The Southern C: Tell your friends about your business or project because you never know of possible connections. And finally, their last tip was perhaps the most important. Simply stated by Gwen, “You have to work for what you want. It’s not easy.”

Image via The Laundress

3. Haile Parker McCollum, owner of Fontaine Maury, on developing your brand and brand strategy:

Haile, owner of Fontaine Maury, a brand and design firm in Thomasville, Georgia, opened her presentation by making the point, “Branding lives in the head of your consumer. It’s not a logo. It’s what consumers think about you when you’re not in the room.”

Haile shared a fast-paced exercise in uncovering your brand personality that she affectionately calls “bar hopping.” She asked, “If you were at a bar, what would you order? Where would you sit? Who would you talk to? What kind of music is playing? Where is the bar?” The answers to these questions surprisingly reveal a lot about your personality. For example, someone that would order champagne probably has a very classic personality, which should thus translate to his or her respective brand. Ultimately, Haile claims that you need to find your core strengths and cater your brand toward them.

“The perfect way to keep on track is to dream your perfect future,” says Haile. “What impact will you make? Who are your customers? What is your reputation? If you don’t say it, it won’t happen.”

Image via Chanterelle Photography 

4. Tori Mellott, Senior Design & Market Editor at Traditional Home, on how to work with the media:

In a session called “How to Work with the Media,” Tori Mellot shared her tips for those who want their work featured in any sort of online or print publication, like Traditional Home. According to Tori, it’s important to be authentic and original. “Magazines and websites are looking to publish things that are fresh and new, not something that has been re-packaged. At the end of the day, every magazine is looking for original content and everyone wants to be different.”

When promoting a product or idea, she likes to be pitched via email, but one where she doesn’t have to link to anything. According to Tori, the email should be very concise and contain awesome photography, so you can see the product in its best light. Additionally Tori said, “Do your homework. Understand the flavor and personality of the publication before pitching a story.” Her closing tip was to have an open mind with how you can collaborate. Don’t be afraid to pitch yourself on something you aren’t an expert in: “If you believe in your brand and have the resources, then send it to editors and share it.”

Image via Domino

5. Danielle Kurtz, Creative Director at Land of Nod, on blogger/brand collaborations:

In the 16 years Danielle has been part of the Land of Nod team, she has held positions in marketing, merchandising, and design. In her current role as creative director, Danielle oversees design, copywriting, and photography across all three of the brand’s sales channels. As you can imagine, she works with blogger and brand collaborations on a daily basis—her tips:

  1. Notice me: Danielle stated that it’s important to have consistent, original content that is really good. Quality over quantity. Within time, your readership will grow and brands will notice you.
  2. Quietly stalk your dream list of collaborations: Discover their style and personality. See what types of collaborations they participate in and if it’s a fit for you and your blog or brand.
  3. Pitch well: Craft a wonderful business proposal showing what you can do for them—not what they can do for you. Collaborations need to be a win, win situation.
  4. Over deliver: Danielle suggested that once a collaboration is executed, go above and beyond what you were asked to do. Make a list of what they asked you to do and what you actually did. This provides a great follow-up tool and is a good example of your work to share with future potential collaboration pitches.

Image via Nickie Cutrona


(feature image via Chantarelle Photography, header image is Suzanne Kasler’s office published in Atlanta Homes by Erica George Dines)