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It was a year and a half ago when she decided to make the jump. One may look at Nineveh Madsen’s success today and believe that she’s living the corporate worker turned entrepreneur’s dream. Only a few months and 3 issues into her magazine digital publication HerMagazine, and she’s already reached the pinnacle of a reach of over 1 million people. A reach spanning across the globe.
Anyone aspiring to such heights may easily pose the question:
What does it take to build a brand with such presence over such a short period?
“I think a lot of people look at HerMagazine as though we jumped to immediate success, we’re only 3 issues in right? But in all honesty this concept came up over 2 years ago when I released my first issue. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I knew that I had a passion for story-telling. And because I was a news broadcaster, I had worked in the news industry for a long time, so I’ve always loved people’s stories and sharing them in video and writing.
“I think as many people who aspire to success, we’ll listen to podcasts and we’ll listen to interviews. And what we’ll see is the success story. We don’t get to hear all the challenges that people go through before they reach that success. We’re definitely not an overnight success. Although we are proud of what we’ve achieved so far.”
On making the jump…
“I left my corporate career about a year and a half ago. But starting my own thing had been resting on my mind for longer than that I knew that I was unfulfilled and that I wanted something different.
I knew that I wanted to make my own rules and that’s how I think a lot of entrepreneurs are. They have a very strong work ethic. They are big dreamers and they really don’t like being told what to do. That 9-5 job is really not for them.
And a lot of them find themselves feeling unhappy and questioning themselves on why they feel this way. “Is there something wrong with me?” Yes there’s something wrong with you. You’re an entrepreneur!
These are some of the lessons that Nineveh’s learned along her journey towards building a leading global brand.
Building a brand can open unexpected earning opportunities
“While I was working in the news industry feeling the way that I was, a couple of opportunities came my way. Clients kept asking me, “You know you do a really good job with social media and building your brand. Is there any way that you can help us with it?” Working a full time job and starting a magazine I wasn’t sure how much time would this entail. When I asked how much they were willing to pay. it was literally 50% of my current salary at the time. And I thought if I can work 10 hours a week and make 50% of my salary, I wonder what would happen if I could take one a little bit more responsibility? Could I replenish my salary? So I did that for about a month. And that gave me a taste of what people were willing to pay for my knowledge and my expertise outside of the corporate world. It really changed my mindset about money and how I can make money and how much money I can make.”
However when starting out she did not really anticipate all the financial aspects of building a business with a reputable brand.
Money is important. Be prepared financially.
“I was sort of foolish in a sense because I didn’t think of any of that. And honestly I say that I was blissfully ignorant. Because had I really thought about how much funding and bootstrapping money would be involved in building a business, I probably wouldn’t have made the leap of faith. But what did give me some courage is that I had a bit of backup from money that I had coming in from the side. So that really did give me the courage to say you know I do have a bit of money coming in, and I’ve lived on very little money before and I can do it now. I didn’t have a ton of money saved. And again, I totally and completely underestimated how much business costs.”
Nineveh admits that building a brand often comes with the dilemma of doing things for free to gain exposure. However, after having a fingers burned several times, her sentiments towards this have drastically changed.
Free is fun until it happens to you
“It really comes down to valuing yourself and valuing your time. Valuing your expertise and your knowledge, that you have something to give the world. I think when you are transitioning from employee mindset to entrepreneur, you have a hard time putting a dollar sign on what your time, your expertise and your knowledge is worth. And you also have a hard time especially if you’re a woman to sometimes ask for money. But people who don’t want to pay you but expect you to help them for free don’t value you.
“I pay everyone that I can possibly pay with building my business. I respect people’s time. My advice is try to stay away from doing free things. If you are going to do things for free always consider the ROI. If you are doing it as a gift then that’s okay. But you are going to have to draw the line between being used and giving back to the community. If you’re going to go around doing things for free, you can never build your business, or your brand.
When you begin to say no to things that don’t pay you well or don’t value you, you open the door to bigger opportunities. Because you are telling the world and you are telling the universe that I don’t work for nothing and I am not cheap. I value myself highly so whatever opportunity that is coming my way better have a better price tag on it than that.
If you are new, you have to be hungry for knowledge so there is a free trial period that you can go through though. However in terms of getting that exposure, make sure that whatever exposure that you are getting is collaborative. So even if you’re not getting paid for it, you’re getting something in return. You always have to think in an ROI mindset.”
With the rise of social media, many of us now have the opportunity to build brands very simply, whether intentionally or not.
“Whether you realize it or not, you are building a brand everyday, through the things that we say, the things that we do, the way that we dress. The way we portray ourselves to the world. So the personal brand really happens accidentally. And being authentic is essential.”
If you’re going to use Social Media to build your brand, FOCUS.
“Focus is important. If you use social media it is better to have one platform that is ultra successful rather than being on every single social media channel and not having traction on any of them. Social media is all about the numbers. However, don’t allow them to fool you. There are many social influencers out there with a lot of followers but are actually broke.
The best kind of growth is organic. This takes a lot of time and patience. Make the right kind of collaborations. That’s how you can grow very quickly. The clearer you become about your message and your values, and when you start realizing some success -that’s when you can become a bit picky about the type of collaborations you align yourself with. At the beginning, people don’t know you, so you have some room for mistakes.”
Don’t be afraid to take risks and be bold
At times you just have to go with your gut in being different. And if there are consequences you’ll deal with them later. You are not always going to get it perfect or right. And you can’t always predict the outcomes of your decisions.
When you are bold and risky, maybe you are being controversial. That means not everybody is going to like you. And in business you can’t please everyone.
So you’ve got to have thick skin. And if you are making moves that everybody agrees with then you aren’t doing something right. You’ve got to be a risk taker. Sometimes those risks pay off, sometimes they don’t.”
However Nineveh asserts that the decisions should be in line with what your brand stands for. This is essential for maintaining your integrity in the long term.
She also stresses the importance of not being so personally attached to the brand you’re building that it cannot exist without you.
“Your brand should be able to operate whether you are in it or not. You also have to be consistent. Often to be successful at this you have to build a team. However it is important that you understand how every aspect of your business or brand runs so you can put a value on it. So when you bring people on board for a specific function, you value them. And you understand how critical they are to scaling your business.”
Lastly When Building a Brand, Overnight Success is a Myth
“We are all captivated by stories of overnight success. And we become so hard on ourselves that we aren’t experiencing that overnight success. It’s really kind of a pipe dream to think that you’re going to start a brand today it just explodes 6 months from now. It simply doesn’t work that way.”
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**This was the first installment of our #YOUPOWERINVESTMENTSERIES. Make sure to catch the next one on the 15th of November where we’ll talk to an expert from Betterment on the topic: “How to be your own Investment Hero”. You don’t want to miss it! **