Ep. 11: The Design Process with Barbs and Blanche!

While Barbs and Blanche were in Santa Barbara this week checking in on a client, the two sat down to talk about the LCo design process!

Ep. 10: Building Revenue Streams

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After a small hiatus, Barbs is BACK and better than ever with episode 10! This one's all about building revenue streams, so if you like making money, take extra notes…or don’t! We did that part for you! 

THE SHOW NOTES

Why is building revenue streams so important to a small business? In episode 10 Kristen shares here thoughts based on her experience as a business owner the last 6 years. “For me, the alternate streams of revenue I set up early on, that have since morphed and changed into other revenue streams, are what allowed me flexibility in being able to select the direction that I wanted my business to go,” she says.

In thinking about your business and other revenue streams, make sure you still keep the “main function” (or bread and butter), the main thing. For us, interior design is our main function and always will be! It’s what we base everything off of from a branding, marketing and numbers standpoint; and then we have the brick + mortar, online shop and airbnb (and for a while we did flips and investment properties) because over time the company has pivoted (if you know, you know) and morphed into being those things also. In creative businesses, it’s easy to forget to keep the main thing the main thing, but it’s important to not let your “side hustles” outshine your main function not matter how much growth happens along your business journey.

As you probably know by now, THE LifeStyled COMPANY started as a blog, with its primary intention being to get interior design clients, because Kristen wanted to tap into and style all aspects of your life. Around the same time though, Kristen started an Etsy shop selling printables while she was also still working her full time job as a wedding coordinator and blogging. While the Etsy shop grew and changed, she started creating wedding invites and seating charts along with printables, and was able to save enough money to make LCo her full time gig! “I made $16k the first year, $21k the 2nd, $21k the 3rd and then $11k the 4th year. There was definitely a peak in the middle and for a small business, the revenue made was a lot of money! This alternate stream of revenue provided me flexibility and peace of mind, and it allowed me to have the confidence in taking risks for my main function. All that said though, I never let it with or get in the way of my main function,” Kristen says. Now, she’s not saying you need to drop everything and start an Etsy shop because back then Etsy was new-ish and all the traffic was organic. Now the landscape has changed and you have to pay to play, so maybe now it isn’t the vehicle to have an alternate stream of revenue, but back then the timing was right and it worked for Kristen. 

A LITTLE WORD ON HOUSE FLIPPING

House flipping - it’s really hard. It was envisioned to be another stream of revenue so Kristen could let weddings go for good. Kristen talks about how the projects her and Vince did were “good-ish” - they made between $10-$30k per project, but then  got sued so now it’s like we didn’t make anything (she talked about this in episode 8!). “It was worth it because we gained so much knowledge and it taught me a lot about builds and managing trades and subcontractors,” says Kristen.

This market is also super saturated and pretty cut throat. Not only is the housing market a wild card in general, but when you have homes that are not great going for top dollar, and homes that are stunning going for top dollar, there’s not much wiggle room for flippers to break into the market anymore.

THE STORY ON THE LCO SHOP

Between house flip projects, Kristen knew she wanted to get into retail and open a boutique, but it’s a huge undertaking and at the time she didn’t have much bandwidth left. Once she stopped flipping, she went to her first market with her mom and while she was really excited about the potential of an LCo retail shop, she wanted to test it out before she signed a 3-5 year lease. She came up with the concept of a pop up shop, and in April 2016 she rented a space for $3000 for the month. “We announced it and did the pop up for a week. In typical Barbara fashion I couldn’t half ass it. I invested so much money, time and effort and at that point we hadn’t installed a retail location before (1500 square feet of furniture in a house is a lot different than 1500 square feet furniture in a retail space!).”

The team pulled out all the stops and installed the space in 2 days! It was wildly successful, they walked away with $15k of profit in a week, balls to the walls busy and Kristen says it was the first pinch me moment she’s had after seeing all the support! This experience allowed Kristen to get a taste of retail and it was great, but she knew she couldn’t do it to that level forever because she was frankly exhausted. BUT (there’s always a but!) after she thought that would be the end of the retail shop conversation, but after she saw the demand she came up with the shop concept that we have, and the rest is history! Our brick and mortar is located in downtown Gilbert, AZ and just like our company, it’s changed so much from the first merchandising set. Overall the shop is more streamlined and brand identifiable; we introduced clothing, shoes and accessories, and launched an online store (which is a whole other beast and separate business), and all of these “pivots” were all trying to build additional streams of revenue so we could have choices.

LET’S RECAP

You can’t be an expert in a million things and a sure fire way to let your network know that you’re all over the place, is to be all over the place. “If you’re trying to build a profitable business as an entrepreneur, whether or not you want it to be just you or grow into something larger, you need to pick a theme and stay in your lane - for me it was design,” she says. “From printables to weddings to homes, it was always design. You have to pick and choose!”

The more you dumb down your experiments and efforts, the more lost you’re going to be, which as an entrepreneur is not the place to be. Additional streams of revenue are important and vital to a business so that you don’t put everything on your shoulders and all eggs in one basket; that can be a slippery slope and a scary situation, so give yourself a buffer for those “just in case” moments.

THE LINKS




Ep. 9: Working with Your Spouse

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You guys. It’s episode 9! WHAT! This season is flying by and episode 9 is a special one! Kristen interviews her husband, Vince, and they get real about what it’s really like to work with your spouse. Business moguls and creatives alike, there’s lots of good info in this one, so listen up!

THE SHOW NOTES

You heard this in episode 1, but Kristen and Vince originally met working together 9-10 years ago! She was the creative (obviously), and he was in charge of logistics. Before Vince made the switch and was hired on as CEO of The LifeStyled COMPANY, he worked in the corporate food and beverage industry. In this interview, Vince recalls that his job consisted of doing sales and managing people and processes - selling booze and selling home decor and women’s clothing is (of course) very different, but the foundational principles are the same. Already having some business and management experience under his belt it made the transition easier, but there were some challenges that came about.

This episode is a gold mine of good advice that can be applicable to anyone in business! For those of you listening on the go, we listened for ya! Here are the most key things to note and remember from this episode:

  • One of the most important things to keep in mind when working with your spouse is to define your roles early on, and outsource the work that doesn’t fit into either one of your skillsets. In other words, stay in your lane. This practice is huge, and something people might gloss over when transitioning into a new job role. In any situation, it’s so important to have open and honest communication, but especially when working with your partner/spouse. By identifying your roles at the beginning, you will be avoiding the whole “Who’s doing what?” “I thought that was my job” “You should be doing it like this” conflicts that are bound to arise.

  • In the same way that you should be defining your individual roles with your spouse, you should be doing the same to define your roles with your team once they make the switch. It’s important to keep your employees in the loop, and especially in small businesses where people seem to have their hands in everything.

  • Someone wrote in and asked, “How do you convince your spouse to quit their job and come work with you?” This is such a good question for many reasons, but the main response boils down to if you have to convince them to quit their current job to work with you, it’s probably not a good fit. If your spouse/partner is hesitant because of financial reasons, there are ways to navigate that, but they should feel willing and excited about the switch. Kristen and Vince suggest making a pro and con list separately, and then reviewing your lists together to spark and open and honest conversation.

  • The transition was hard at times for Vince and Kristen and it became apparent in their own experience that our society doesn’t do that great of a job supporting the emotional side of our men. Society says that men are “supposed” to be the unemotional, stone faced ones, but they experience emotions with change, too. Are we asking if they’re okay? Are we giving our guys any grace in having unexpected feelings and how that will feel for them emotionally? We need to affirm them that it’s okay to be bummed about whatever, to lean into those feelings and process them.

  • “One of the biggest challenges when you work with your spouse is the first 15 minutes after we get home when all you want to do is just download on your day,” says Kristen. This is common amongst most working people, but when you work with your spouse, they’re with you during your day! So as to not bring work home with you, different boundaries needed to be created and implemented.

THE LINKS

Ep. 8: All the Bad Sh*t in Business

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You guys! It's episode 8! We hope you've been loving season 1 so far and if you have, would you send Kristen a DM on Instagram @kristenforgione? Don't forget to rate, review, subscribe and download! It helps us so much to know what you like, what you don't, etc. So far the most popular episodes have been Episode 5, which was with Blanche and Rach and then Episode 4 which was Attracting the Right Clients and knowing your Worth, and Episode 6 which is the Unexpected with Turning your Passion into a business are neck and neck!

We really never dreamed that 10 of you would listen to this thing or that we’d be able to connect like we all have, so thank you. It’s really such a gift you’re giving back to us, allowing us to share my experience with you and help you on your journey, personally or in business.

Anyways, let's get to it! Episode 8. All the bad sh*t in business. It's a good one - it's juicy, it's real talk and I think recounting some of my experiences will definitely help you all whether now, or in the future. Listen up and tune in now!

 The show notes

In 6 years, there’s a lot of BAD SHIT that happens, just by default. And the crazy thing is that even some of the BADDEST shit between clients, employees, whatever! surprises you in the end. Sometimes you look back and think huh, that particular thing or experience kinda wasn’t that bad and was meant to happen because now I know x, y, z. There’s something calming in all those experiences that leads to confidence and makes your fuck with rating through the roof! (Before you go googling “fuck with rating,” we define it as what happens when you have enough experience where you decide you’re not going to get fucked with anymore - ha!)

This is a highly anticipated episode and of all of the comments, messages and feedback Kristen gets, a ton of it is centered around all the bad shit in business! Stuff people don’t want to talk about because it’s uncomfortable or controversial. We want to remind you that what Kristen is sharing with you today is her real experience and how she actually handled it, NOT what would make the best podcast. Also, every person handles situations differently so while you’ll hear on the podcast the real details of the situations Kristen went through, it is her opinion and experience, and nothing more.

Okay, now that that’s all out there, where to even begin.

Let’s start with Bad Clients…

There are two main points that will get discussed when it comes to bad clients:

  1. How to avoid bad clients

  2. How to deal with them when you missed the avoid part

In the beginning, for most people, it’s very likely that you’re going to take “bad” clients and instead of beating yourself up over it, you just have to get okay with the fact that it’s a right of passage in business, no matter what industry you’re in. From interior design to accounting, everyone deals with this and you’re totally not alone! These are the types of things that you can draw from in gaining experience and knowledge, and will make you a better business person.

In order to aid and help avoid bad client situations, Kristen came up with a few basic questions, based on her non-negotiables, that she asks herself before jumping into a new client project:

  •  Is there an organic connection?

  • Are we an aesthetic match?

  • Is the client realistic and all parties are on board? In other words, are the decision makers on the same page?

  • Do we like to communicate the same way? We’ve found that emails and text messages work best for us. In our business, communication is key so we need to be on the same page when it comes to modes of communication.

  • Are your conflict resolution expectations the same? This is huge! Sometimes you’ll deal with a terrible contractor, etc and if you and your client talk about your conflict resolution expectations at the beginning, you’ll be on the same page on how to deal with that person and there wont be any surprises.

These are basic principals for Kristen and the team. It’s a good idea to figure out what your non-negotiable parameters are and go through the same type of vetting process for your own clients. The best way to avoid bad clients is to hold everyone to the same criteria, listen to your gut and watch for the red flags. Even if you go through all of this, sometimes you still come across clients that are just plain bad. Sometimes there’s drama early on, or something seems off, and what we can say to you in that situation is to trust your gut, no matter how much that project might be worth (money isn’t everything if it’s going to cost you your sanity).

moving on to Bad Employees…

Like bad clients, chances are you’ll always have bad employees here and there. It happens. Kristen got some really good advice about how to deal with bad employees from a client, actually, that we ended up parting ways with because of a bad employee. He said, “Don’t beat yourself up over it too much. No matter how great of a boss you are, how much time you have or how much you do, sometimes people are just going to go rogue. That’s just human beings by nature. Also, a lot of times there are factors in people’s lives that affect them at work, that you simply just have no idea about.”

Read that over and over again until you have it memorized, and refer back to it when you inevitably deal with an employee that turns out to be less than awesome.

Another piece of advice? Hold your employees to the same standard as your clients! Along with creating non-negotiable parameters when vetting clients, Kristen has a set of similar questions she asks herself when hiring new employees:

  • Do we have an organic connection?

  • Are your expectations realistic?

  • Do we feel like we have an aesthetic match?

  • Do we communicate the same way?

  • Are your conflict resolution criteria the same?

We discussed this in episode 7, but we need to reiterate that when you’re making hires, do. not. compromise! And don’t hire someone out of convenience! However, if the going gets tough with one of your employees, it’s a crossroads for you as a boss - it’s either a “is this person coachable?” moment, or a “do i need to let this person go?” moment. For Kristen personally, she always default to trying to coach them so she knows she gave 150%, but that’s a decision that you need to make for yourself.

When it comes to employees, put expectations in writing, give them grace, be real and compassionate, and hopefully you’ll turn out on the other side of it. Bottom line.

sometimes, people are just plain Bad

Even if you do everything in your power to avoid bad situations, they happen. And the first thing you can do to prepare yourself for when that time comes is to accept that. In knowing that something bad is bound to happen, Kristen recommends starting your own “Bad Shit in Business” fund. Start taking even 5% of your revenue, or your credit card rewards, and transfer it into an account that you can use as sort of an insurance policy (aka a “rainy day” fund).

Bad shit in business costs you money - be ahead of the game! “If I would’ve had [a “Bad Shit in Business” fund], making some of the calls I had to make might’ve been easier. In the beginning, you tend to hold onto every penny and maybe put up with things longer than you normally would. Having this kind of “insurance policy” will allow you to put your foot down and not have to just deal because you can’t afford to do otherwise,” she says.

This will help you when it comes to those bad people you come across when you have to give a design fee back, when an employee quits or for legal fees when you get sued…yes, she’s been sued. It was something totally out of left field that lasted over a year. The case is now closed, and she won, but it was awful. Kristen got served by someone who bought one of her flips, for negligence in covering foundational and wall cracks, among other claims including impersonation saying that her company wasn’t legit. “That experience as incredibly horrific and makes you so vulnerable - it’s threatening,” says Kristen. “I told my parents and my dad said - in a very dad way of saying things - ‘Congratulations, you’ve made it. If someone is threatened by your success to the point where they think they can financially profit from it, you’ve got something worth fighting for.”

She hasn’t owned any investment properties since and doesn’t know if she ever will because this experience really soured the flipping business for her. But it’s also experiences like this that teach you so much about navigating rough waters, who you are as a businessperson, what you can handle, what you’re willing and not willing to handle, and so much more. You can’t ever know when bad experiences or people will happen, but you can preemptively prepare for them in the best way you can.

If you take nothing else from this episode, remember this: in all things, try to be ethical and hold your team to the highest regard and value. And even when it’s hard and you don’t want to, take the high road.

LINKS


Ep. 7: Building Your Team

It’s episode 7- can you even believe it?! We’re on the downhill slope of this podcast season and are so beyond thankful and grateful for all of the support you, our listeners, have shown us so far. In this episode, we wanted to dive into Kristen’s experience building her current team. You know that part in our intro where it goes “it’s not all sunshine and rainbows”? Yeah. We meant it. Building a business is one thing, but building a team and refining your own skills as a leader of not only your company, but people too? That’s a whole other rodeo no one tells you about when you’re first starting out.

Ready to get ahead of the pack and take in some sound advice on this topic? Tune in and read on for the notes!

THE SHOW NOTES

When you get to the point in business where you’re ready to take the next step and start building a team, it’s generally because you’re ready to take things to the next level. What does that mean for you? This “next level” is all relative and subjective to you personally, and the goals you have both personally and professionally.

For Kristen, the next level didn’t mean happier, wealthier or busier - it meant being more organized and streamlined, having more comfort and trust, less mistakes, a better experience both internally and for clients, and better communication. Maybe those things don’t equal the next level for you, and that’s totally okay. This is an opportunity to turn inward, do some soul searching and actually qualify or quantify what you think having extra hands on board will do for you.

Maybe you’re just fine in your little one woman (or man) sailboat and you don’t need anymore hands on deck. If that’s the case for you, good on you! Keep doing what you’re doing to kick ass and take names. If you feel like you’re drowning a bit and are in need of someone to throw you a lifeline, keep on reading because we’ll get to some strategies you can implement in order to get the best employees for you.

“I think I always knew I would have employees,” says Kristen. However, she continues on to say that If you had asked her five years ago if she thought she was a good boss, she would’ve said totally! She’s reasonable, empathetic, sympathetic, honest; but she admits she was lacking at really being able to put her needs second, and put the needs of her employees as developing professionals first. Kristen reflects and says that this concept alone is the biggest key in getting quality employees and most importantly, keeping them. It’s a learned skill, for sure, but one that is invaluable to the growth of your business and the growth of yourself as an entrepreneur.

So, you’ve done some soul searching and are determined to add some amazing new hires to expand your woman show - now what? Before you do anything, get rid of the fear of failing. You can’t be so nervous about hiring that you end up not hiring anyone. Everyone has a bad hire - it’s a right of passage, but you live and you learn and you move on. Also, rid yourself from the feeling of obligation - don’t also hire someone out of pity, or that you know from the get go is not going to be a good hire for you.

Okay, now to the good stuff.

As a solo entrepreneur you’ll start to realize that you do things you hate a lot of your day. In a creative business, most of those hated things are usually totally not creative and more administrative. For Kristen, she realized that she started to feel like she was pushing papers - designing only once a week, in the field once a week, but bogged down on email and administrative tasks every other day. It was hard and she was able to realize that that’s where she had some weaknesses and needed help. Kristen recommends identifying where your weaknesses are, and hiring someone that compliments those. For her, she desperately needed help with all the administrative stuff that comes with owning a business, so her first hire was an office manager so she could clear her plate and have more time to design (the company’s money maker).

“Where I was as a designer at that point in my career was not a good place for me to groom another designer, from a design standpoint or a leadership standpoint,” Kristen says. “Along with knowing your worth, I also think it’s important to figure out what you’re good at, and what your employees are good at. Figure out, or even involve them in what you like to do, and see if there’s any crossover. You could be on separate planets task wise, and that’s totally okay. “

Kristen’s first hire was an office manager that was initially part time to help field consults, write contracts and run errands. This first hire not only helped Kristen build the business, but they also helped me to see what she could work on as a boss, and what her strengths were as a leader. Please note that these are two totally different things. They’re not synonymous and both require equal attention and focus.

After that, her next hire was going to be a second designer. At this point in time, Kristen’s mom was helping her with interviews and their goal was to find someone that could alleviate some of the pressure and take on some of her tasks, but who could also still design. “If you need help seeing how you work best with others, ask your mom - she’ll tell you!” she says. Kristen mentions that she wasn’t ready to pay a seasoned designer because she herself was still learning about who she was as a designer, and her aesthetic (it wasn’t called ODL at the time!). This person was a good fit at first, but things went sour. She then brought in a project manager which ended up being a questionable hire as well. Kristen reflects and says, “There were a good two years where the team I had was questionable, but I think it was important to go through those experiences to learn about hiring in general, who to hire that’s best for both the company and yourself - working with someone 40 hours/week is a lot of time spent with them if you’re butting heads and expectations don’t align.”

It was at that point that she took some time to be self reflective. It was very clear that she needed to pivot (there’s that word again!) because something she was doing wasn’t working. She looked at what she was doing (Was it timing? Hiring the wrong people and not understanding red flags in the beginning? Not understanding the exact needs of clients?) and got better as a boss. “While I don’t take responsibility for the things our first hires did,” she says, “I do think i could have served them more as a boss, lessons I learned only after going through the experience of hiring, firing, etc.”

You have to build your team with people around you that you trust, that trust you, and are drinking the kool-aid. They need to believe what you believe, and be working towards a common goal. Business is business, but it’s also very personal, so you should share common ground. Once you get your foundation laid and begin to find these people, then you can get the luxury of looking at hiring in a different way than maybe before. For Kristen, it was being able to look for “talent,” meaning can they not only do the tasks, but did they have everything on her list of what makes up the ideal candidate for her? Each employee you have over time is a piece of the puzzle, and then the puzzle is always growing, especially when you’re in a thriving business. Not only are your employees part of your journey, but you are part of theirs! They also chose YOU! Accept people for who they are, identify what their strengths and weaknesses are, and build around that, be okay with it and figure out how to help them, and you will go far.

Advice for new bosses

  • Timing is everything. Don’t hire someone out of convenience just because you need a warm body.

  • Talk to your employees and talk to them often. Are they happy? What do they need? Having employees that are dedicated to you is the biggest compliment on earth. “That is something that we’ve worked up to as a culture,” Kristen says. “I like to think that it’s because they feel supported in all aspects and know that with anything that happens, we will back them up on it. It doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes and there wont be training opportunities, but I always say i can fix 99% of what you do, just don’t lie to me.”

  • Delegate! One of the biggest strengths of entrepreneurs is that they’re control freaks, and this can also be one of the biggest weaknesses. You’ve gotta figure out the best way for you to channel that control freak-ness into something that’s positive and beneficial, and your employees can help you with that. Let them help you! It took Kristen a long time to get there and she can say that it all comes from confidence and personal growth. It will free up your time and mind from that “feeling like you’re drowning” feeling.

  • As a boss, figure out what your hot buttons are and figure out what you can compromise on. You have to pick your battles.

  • You have to trust the people that you hire. This doesn’t mean that you let them lead you into a black hole of death, but give them capable hands and empower them to use their own brain, reasoning, project management skills to get your company and clients to the best outcome.

  • Hiring your first employee is a big deal and affording them is also a big deal. Have at least 6 months of wages in the bank ready to go so that you aren’t worried about how you’re going to pay them.

the links



Ep. 6: The UNEXPECTED With Turning Your Passion Into a Business

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You all know by now that Kristen turned her passion into a multi-million dollar business. In episode 6, she talks about all of the unexpected things that happened along the way. Tune in!

The Show Notes

When Kristen says the “unexpected” things and feelings that come with turning your passion into a business, how many of you think you know exactly what she means?

When she started recording this episode, she kind of surprised herself in that even she didn’t fully realize what she meant until she was in full swing recording. So here we go!

SO WHAT IS SHE EVEN TALKING ABOUT?

“I feel crazy frankly even making a podcast episode about this topic because so much of my life is amazing and wonderful, and I am so incredibly thankful for the means in which I’ve gotten to where I am,” Kristen says. “The point is, I don’t want you to think I’m ungrateful or that I shouldn’t be feeling this way, so let’s just get into it.”

It is an absolute blessing to be able to turn what you love into a business, specifically a business you can support your family or yourself with. Kristen truly believes it’s one of the best gifts you can give yourself or someone else. Think about it, you spend more awake hours working in whatever capacity that is, than you do anything else. Your career is what consumes your daily life, for most of your daily life, so if you can find happiness in your job and what you do, that’s huge in and of itself!

When you think about the quintessential “American Dream,” one could argue that it boils down to turning your passion into a business. It’s what we think a lot of people truly want in life, especially for Kristen. She knew it’s what she wanted and always knew would happen for her, so she was absolutely committed to making that happen. While it can be really rewarding, if you don’t love it, it can pose a lot of negative feelings during your journey as a business owner.

“I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life then being an interior designer. So I wasn’t anticipating feeling lonely in turning my passion into a business. When people ask what my hobbies are and what do I do in my free time...well [for me] I turned those things into a business. It works and it’s amazing and I wouldn't change a thing, BUT in doing so, I no longer have a passion. I monetized it and made it my life, but now I'm devoid of my hobby.”

Kristen continues in saying that most of her passions and things she’s loved, she’s monetized. She loves fashion and is passionate about buying, so she started a retail shop as a passion project and now it’s a full blown business. She owns an A-frame cabin with her husband, Vince, and cousins so they could make memories with their families. It’s available for rent so now, it’s a business that they pay taxes on. Kristen love pilates, but her studio offered her a social partnership, so she literally is now taking stories on the reformer. “I’m so grateful, genuinely happy and not complaining, just reflecting on how I don’t really have a hobby or passion anymore,” she says. “This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s just a thing that’s unexpected and one no one really talks about. But if you are a self reflective person and check your gut, which I do, I never expected to feel lonely in this.”

Being an entrepreneur is extremely rewarding, especially when you get to the point of success that you can hire a team that’s just as passionate as you are about your “thing.” It’s even better when you see employees excel, grow and develop - an amazing thing that opens up your mind to possibilities that at one point seemed unattainable. BUT it can also be a lonely road, filled with thoughts and feelings that don’t get talked about because they’re not shiny or positive or could sound complain-y. Honestly, let’s cut the shit shall we? It’s important for us business owners, creatives, women in business, etc. to do a gut check every once in a while, and help others around us do the same. How are we doing knowing we have the weight of our world on our shoulders? Are we well? Check in on each other!!

Did you read that last paragraph? Yes? Good! Now, read it again and let that marinate for a second. Do you resonate? Have you experienced similar feelings?

“[This topic] has been weighing heavy on me. I’m more so shocked in recognizing that I feel this way, but now that I’ve pinpointed the issue, I want to help other entrepreneurs to prepare for when they inevitably feel this feeling, more than I ever was.”

The Takeaways

  • “Do you feel like there’s an unexpected price in turning your passion into a business? Yes. Passions can ebb and flow, and you could be over it in two weeks, but businesses need to have longevity unless you have a whole bunch of capital to throw around and you can come and go as you please.”

  • Think about what makes you the happiest. If you can look at whatever it is from a 40,000 level and take the emotion out of it, you might be able to make better decisions based on what you go forward with in business, and what you don’t.

  • Be steadfast in keeping the line very firm balancing what part of your passion translates to business, and what part of your passion stays just your passion.  

  • Do something to connect with yourself everyday. Whether that’s yoga, going on walks, reading books, listening to podcasts, coloring, painting, cooking, kayaking - whatever it is - keep a reserved place for that and that alone. As your business grows, you will be burning the candle at all ends - not both ends, all ends. You need to have some sort of outlet that gives you some relief.

the links

Ep. 5: Working for a Design Firm, Interview with Lead Designers Kylie Ray + Rachel McCloskey

Episode 5 is here! Kristen sat down with Kylie (Blanche) and Rachel to interview them on what it’s like working for a design firm, specifically LCo. The girls both say (and frequently we might add!) that they’re working their dream job! But, as we all know, “dream jobs” don’t usually just fall into your lap without hard work, trial and error, good timing and a little bit of luck. If you haven’t listened, be sure to do so because this is one episode you don’t want to miss! Keep reading for some amazing advice and takeaways that you can apply to your own life!

THE SHOW NOTES

If you don’t know, Kylie and Rachel have very different backgrounds, both of which have served them well along their journey to their career at LCo.

Kylie has a degree in Nonprofit and Special Events Management from Arizona State University. She was working four jobs prior to her full-time role as a designer, including retail at a big box furniture store, real estate agent and spin instructor (fun fact! She met Kristen because she used to take her classes - shout out to The Madison!).

Ky started part time as a junior project manager at LCo, which lasted basically two weeks before Kristen changed lanes and brought her on full-time as a design associate. While she didn’t have any formal training, she has a natural eye and passion for interiors. A pivotal moment in Kylie’s professional life was when Kristen asked her, “Is the future of Kylie a spin instructor? Or is the future of Kylie an Interior Designer?” Ever since then, it’s been guns blazing and she’s grown into her role as Lead Designer.

Rachel has a degree in Graphic Design from Michigan State University. Rach got into interiors because of her graphic design internship experiences at design firms in LA where she was doing mostly brand and branding deliverables. She used her internships to her advantage to refine her skills and also make great connections in the industry.

After college, Rach ended up moving to LA for work, bouncing around as a junior designer or associate at firms through her network. Perhaps one of the most pivotal experiences of her early career was her role at Croft House in LA. It was in this role that she expanded her knowledge in SketchUp and the details and specific roles that furniture has in an overall design - she loves this experience and says that it helped lead her to the place she’s at today.

THE INTERVIEW

Kristen started firing off questions to the girls and we documented some of the highlights below, and while we of course want you to read them, you really gotta just listen because they’re a wealth of knowledge and HILARIOUSLY entertaining.

You’ve both said on multiple occasions that you’re working in your “dream job” - why?

Rach: The quote “If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” has always really resonated with me. If you have to work too hard for something and it isn’t necessarily a good fit, it can really not be fun, and your dream job should be something that you wake up excited to go and do. When I’m away from work I miss it, it just makes me so happy. There are also so many different niches within LCo (fashion, custom furniture, we do it all). Once you reach your dream job, I think you also realize all the hard work that went into getting there.

Kylie: I totally agree with Rachel, but for me, I worked multiple jobs before LCo. I love working and never felt like one job was enough. But after getting hired by Kristen, I finally feel like I’m at a place where one job is enough and I feel totally fulfilled in all aspects of my career. There are good sides and bad sides, but even the bad is amazing.

What’s your best advice to those who want to break into the interior design industry?

Rach: If you’re in a time of transition and you’re doing it on the side, just do it and develop yourself because any experience will help when applying for jobs. For me, I was in graphic design and wanted to get into interiors, so I got graphic design jobs at interior design firms. The same goes for marketing or sales, use your strengths and background to your advantage to get your foot into the door and things can totally evolve from there. Another thing you need to ask yourself is, are you willing to put in the work? Or start out at the bottom as an intern or assistant?

Kylie: Don’t be afraid even if you don’t have experience and think you need to go back to school for design. While it gives you a leg up, it’s not a make or break deal. If you love something, find a friend that will let you do something for you, do your own spaces and take photos! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, especially on social media! Before I started out I was super active on social and made connections with the designers in our area.

What is it like working on a team of all women?

Kylie: Our office is tiny, we sit shoulder to shoulder and sit on top of each other, but there is zero drama. Similar personalities. We’re all in tune with ourselves and stay in our own lane.

Barb: I take so long to hire because it needs to feel right. It’s all about timing. I’m constantly gut checking and when it isn’t working, you gotta pivot and figure out what you’re going to do. As women in general, we can get along. It doesn’t have to be nasty. Another thing that makes it easy is that we all have a personal connection. Anyone who says business is personal, I’ve never been able to resonate with that because it’s 100% personal. It’s money, time and family, and in our business, it people’s homes. There really isn’t much that’s more personal than giving your house to someone to design.

What makes you proud of your team?

Barb: OUR team. We have each other’s backs. We call each other out, we joke and have fun, and work really really hard. We’re also very honest with each other.

What’s something about Rach that people don’t know?

Her dance moves. - Ky

She is really deeply hilarious and has amazing comedic timing. She also pronounces Arizona words very, very wrong. - KF

About Barb?

She doesn’t let more than 10 seconds of silence pass before bringing something up - Ky

She hates white stuff, mostly all white sauces (crema, sour cream, mayo), and constantly ask us how to spell words. - Rach

About Ky?

She eats an avocado a day - no joke. She has also never been capable of cutting her own toenails! - KF

She’s so hard working. She’s very pretty and put together on IG and people might not think that about her, but she has such an amazing work ethic. - Rach

LINKS


Ep. 4: Attracting the Right Clients + Knowing Your Worth

THE SHOW NOTES

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In this episode, Kristen explains how knowing your worth as a business owner (and in life!) helps attract the right clients. Each podcast episode serves to provide you, the listener, with both inspiration and insight into being a creative entrepreneur.

The topic of knowing your worth and attracting and managing clients is something that Kristen has experienced first hand. “I literally remember THE DAY that I decided I was done working with assholes. I had to figure out a way to attract better clients,” she says. “It was a turning point that I’ll remember forever. For me, I think it was an all over shift in my business from the mind set I had toward employees and hiring, to the mindset I had with clients. I didn’t know what to google or that this was even a common problem until years later. And I don’t think I could really tell it was working for months after I started.”

She’s come to learn that attracting the right clients and knowing your worth go hand in hand in so many ways. Some, you many not event realize. 

If you’re a freelancer, creative business owner (or any business owner, really), someone working in a creative business…this episode is for you! “If you are a responsible party for any relationship where there is a client and a provider, I think there is a lot of meat in this episode that can help you,” Kristen says.

In just three episodes, we’ve found that you guys like tactics! You like to hear where Kristen has been, what she did in the situations we’ve discussed so far, and for her to tell you what she did, and point you in the right direction so you can adapt and use it in your own life. 

“Remember, I can only teach my experience, especially because I don’t have a PHD, or even a Bachelor’s degree for that matter, in anything! I just know enough to be dangerous and I like to think I’ve been paying enough attention to this entrepreneur thing to learn a little bit along the way. All of these points are what lead me to having some control, not total control, but some in our business and our clients. Which ultimately is still and hopefully always will be our bread and butter,” says Kristen.

Let’s get to it!

What you’ll learn in this episode 

1. Ask yourself, “What’s your most natural way of being and working?”  

This is a rhetorical question, so take a second and think about it! If you can confidently answer that question, you will be one step closer to attracting and landing the right clients. If you don’t the answer to this question, how are you going to attract clients that know and understand that about you? Have a hard look in the mirror, figure this out about yourself and then put it in the center of everything you do in business. For Kristen, this exercise led her to one of the most buzz worthy words of the moment - authenticity. Kristen is a casual person and runs her business in that same way BUT, don’t mistake the rose and think we don’t have our shit together (lack of organization and poor business practices have no place at LCo)!

In the beginning when you’re trying to establish your business identity, it’s hard! But instead of trying to get a strike first try, just try to stay in the bumpers. Write down words and phrases that describe you. Actually putting pen to paper will really help in establishing yourself as a business and brand.

2. What’s your value add prop and why/how are you different than the rest of the market? 

This point might even be more important than #1. There HAS to be something about you that’s different and hopefully the exercises explained above will help you figure that out if you don’t already know. To get you on the right track, LCo, for example, specifically markets our “Organic Desert Living” aesthetic. Our clients know that the service we provide them will be consistent with that aesthetic, and that we work hard to be kickass and honest designers (and friends) for them! This doesn’t work for everyone, but because it goes hand in hand with what Kristen’s most natural way of being/working is, it works!

3. Establish your “non-negotiables”!

Yes, this is another buzz word in business, but it’s important! If you’re a little fuzzy on the concept, non-negotiables are basically “I will not do X for Y,” “I’m not willing to compromise this for that.” Be careful that you don’t have a list of say, 15, because at that point there won’t be anybody across the table from you to negotiate with.

Your list of non-negotiables should probably be a pretty short list, but they need to have some force behind them and you need to be 100% confident in being able to enforce. This concept is more of a checks and balances system for yourself internally.

Kristen’s List of Non-negotiables:

  1. Price

  2. Disrespect

  3. Unrealistic Expectations

4. Figure out how much you need to make.

Work backwards, if you’re a freelancer, single designer, etc. how much do you want to make per year? If you are operating a growing team, how much revenue do you need to derive per year (and count yourself as an employee)? Take that number annually and further breakdown the equation. Let’s say you want/need to make $50,000/year. Divide that by 12 months and that gives you roughly $4100/month. If you want to go even further than that, break it down into weeks. You have to put it in terms that you yourself will understand, either by where your debts fall, or based on your project calendar (if that’s the case, you need to have a rolling understanding of your project calendar so you don’t end up cash poor).

5. Understand what your largest business actions/drivers actually COST you. This is a HUGE one.

Numbers four and five work hand in hand. Let’s take this down to selling cookies. How are you going to know how much to sell your cookies for when you don’t even know how much each thing is that goes into the cookies! Be that ingredients, labor, whatever, you gotta know this as a business owner. The thing that differentiates a product based company and a service based company in this area, is simply time.

Are you making money? But most importantly, are you covering your costs? If you haven’t done this in your business, do it. It doesn’t have to be fancy with spreadsheets - unless of course you love that - just get this value assessment DONE. Especially in your largest revenue driving tasks.

The other thing this helps with is saying “no.” We’re in a very yes-man culture, but it’s so important to establish boundaries. Especially when it comes to your time and energy. This is what you do for a living! Don’t forget that!

6. Establish a cost break even, a minimum fee (meaning minimum profit) and a reach fee (meaning maximum profit).

Cost = cost + 10%. The 10% will help you with things that are unknown as a buffer.

Minimum fee = cost + minimum profit margin. If you want to run your profit margin at 20%, that would be your minimum cost + 20% in profit margin (not 20% over your cost).

Reach fee = cost + maximum profit margin. This is where you want to be most of the time, although it might not always happen - and that’s okay! This is your best case scenario.

It’s important to understand where your pricing falls within the market and how it relates to your service offering.

7. How to set up your business in a way that attracts the right people. This includes branding, social media and just generally having your shit together. 

Example time! Way back when there was an employee that left on bad terms. After this person had left, a client pulled Kristen aside and said, “Yeah. I never would have given that person a check for $100,000.” Light bulb moment. Protect your brand. Make sure every employee you hire and component of your branding, is an extension of yourself, has like-minded values, and operates to the standard put forth by your brand.

8. (or 10 or 11 if you’re Barbs) Be OK with business that walks.

In attracting the right clients, you have to be okay enforcing your non-negotiables, and being confident that the business you’re turning down is okay and worth it. You have to learn how to say no and you have to be okay with the business that walks. Be charming and kind when they do, but authentically and transparently be accepting of it, knowing that there’s a reason it didn’t work out. For some of the people that walk, some always come back - and that’s why it’s important to be graceful, patient and kind when the answer is initially “no.”

Note, when the answer is “no,” don’t internalize and beat yourself up over it. There are a lot of times where it’s not even something that you, the business owner, did. The first “no” is the hardest, but it gets easier with time.

Links

Ep. 3: Influencer Fraud

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THE SHOW NOTES

Episode 3 of THE LifeStyled COMPANY podcast is all about Influencer Fraud. Kristen goes in depth about what it is and why it cost her company $15,000, how to look for it and how you can handle it in a way that's beneficial for both you and your business.

Tune in now to listen to the full story about LCo’s experience with Influencer Fraud. It’s a goodie - and we’re not just saying that!

Influencer Marketing

Social media marketing, and specifically influencer marketing, is a relatively new industry historically, and is growing everyday. Influencer marketing is essentially when a brand partners with an influencer to provide a product or service in exchange for social media promotion at an amount that monetarily matches the level of said product or service provided. There are different tiers of “influencer status,” we’ll call it - you have “Micro-Influencer” (<35,000 followers), “Mid-Level Influencer” (35,000 - 100,000 followers), and then you have the Kardashian’s of the world who are off the charts. As an influencer, whatever tier you fall into usually dictates your rate per post, Instagram story, etc.

There are pros and cons of working with each different tier, but it’s important for brands to not only look at who the influencer is as a person and their unique value proposition, but also at their engagement. If someone has 100,000 followers and a 2% engagement rate, that means that 2,000 of their followers are actually engaging on their posts (liking, commenting, saving). This might seem low, but by market standards it’s actually really high! The more followers you have, the lower your engagement rate will be because Instagram values accounts like that differently than say, your mom who has 200 followers. It’s also harder to engage from a percentage standpoint with more people in the pool.

Because of social media, businesses have the power to get right onto people’s phones without requiring them to pick up a magazine, read a newspaper, listen to the radio or open an email. All of these things now kind of seem archaic, but for so long before the age of social media, they were the only ways for brands to advertise to potential consumers. Now, it’s easy for a brand to partner with an influencer as a means of advertising.

It’s beneficial for brands and influencers to partner together when they have a like aesthetic because it’s likely that each entity’s audience/followers and their interests will also be similar. As a business, you’d be reaching a different but engaged audience that will likely respond well to your whatever it is you do or sell.

Influencer fraud

While there are a lot of quality partnerships, there are just as many that are not so great. When you Google “Influencer Fraud,” there are articles that come up, but no real definition which says two things: the climate of Influencer Fraud is changing everyday, and it’s a relatively new concept in the world of marketing and social media.

Kristen’s defines “Influencer Fraud” as this: When someone manipulates their engagement on a social platform that they use for influence, representing yourself as something that you’re not. When committing influencer fraud, the influencer changes and manipulates their engagement in a way so that the number of likes, comments, and saves boosts real numbers to make it seem like they’re getting way more attention and engagement than they actually are.

You may be thinking, “why is this such a big deal?” It has become a big deal, and will continue to be a big deal, especially in the last two years because influencer marketing, while new-ish, will be around a $10 BILLION industry by the end of 2019. TEN. BILLION WITH A CAPITAL “B.” It is where a huge percentage of companies put a ton of their marketing dollars and if those numbers are being manipulated, it’s really bad in a lot of ways, but most importantly from an ethics standpoint.

So now that you know what Influencer Fraud is by definition, let’s dive into what it is as a verb and what red flags to look for. Many influencers who engage in “fraudulent” activity are either buying followers, likes or comments, which are all run by “bots.” There are a few different types of bots:

  1. Bots completely generated on the computer. These bots are a type of algorithm that “hacks” (for lack of a better term) the Instagram system to “create” followers or likes, but really it’s totally fake and just a manipulation of numbers.

  2. There are also bots that are actually real, live human beings who run multiple accounts. These “bots” will toggle back and forth between their own fake accounts to like and comment on the Instagram users that pay them to do so. Some users even pay these people upwards of $2/like or comment. Yes, they’re getting engagement, but they paid for it and it’s totally inauthentic engagement.

Can you see why this is a HUGE problem for businesses? There are businesses out there throwing their marketing and advertising budget at people that they think have an influence in hopes of a boost in brand awareness and sales, just to be cheated out of that money. Again, not every influencer does this, but there are some out there that do. Be proactive and do your research if you’re going to be tapping into Influencer Marketing!

Do Your research

  1. Check the last 12 posts. Is the like to comment ratio consistent? Are there 3000 likes and 7 comments? That’s not normal. There is no way that if you got 3000 someone’s to double tap or hit the heart button, that only 7 of them are taking to step further to comment.

    If you want to take it a step further and calculate the influencer’s engagement rate on a specific post. Take the number of likes and comments on a particular post, divide that by their total following, then multiple by 100. This will give you their engagement rate as a percentage. If you can do this on at least the last 12 posts, that will give you a good understanding of where their engagement falls as a whole. It’s okay if it’s all over the place! There is no rhyme or reason to the Instagram algorithm.

  2. Audit THIER OWN engagement with their following. Are they responding? If they are, are they only responding to comments that aren’t spammy? What do the comments looks like when they do get comments?

  3. If you’re on the receiving end of influencer marketing, ask for a media kit (aka press kit, one sheet, etc). Their media kit should be 1-2 pages and lightly focus on numbers, but not be overrun with ratios, graphs, etc. You want to know their total following, their engagement rate, and possibly their average follower growth per week. Otherwise, the media kit should tell about the influencer, their interests, etc.

Links

Ep. 2: Using Instagram for Business Successfully

THE SHOW NOTES

In episode 2 of THE LifeStyled COMPANY Podcast, Kristen dives into using Instagram for business and using it successfully. There’s a lot that goes into an Instagram strategy which makes it complex enough. Throw in an ever changing algorithm and things really start to get interesting! With a little consistency and effort though, you can not only beat the algorithm, but WIN at Instagram altogether!

Tune in to learn more about how Instagram has aided in building LCo into the brand it is today, and how to use similar tactics to find success for yourself!

Kristen is a seasoned IG user both for personal and professional reasons. She dedicates this episode entirely to what works for her, so that you can gain some knowledge and inspiration to find what works for you.

Something that sticks out right off the bat is when she says, “Everyone can do it their own way. There is plenty of success to be had by all. Trust me, there are plenty followers out there.” According to Tailwind, Instagram hit 1 billion monthly active users as of June 2018. 1. BILLION. Of that, 121 million are in the United States and 32.6% of those users are between the ages of 25 and 34. These statistics are not only mind boggling, but they also illustrate the sheer volume of people you are working with on the platform.

For Kristen, her success on social media has a lot to do with timing. Her social journey began when Myspace (remember that one?!) was at its peak around age 19. She began working it into her daily life by default because it was easy - everyone was doing it! From there it evolved to Facebook and eventually now, Instagram!

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INSTAGRAM GAME CHANGERS

1. JUST BE SOCIAL AND NORMAL!

If you want people to engage with you, you have to engage with people. Be genuine in your engagement, be consistent and most of all, don’t overthink and just be normal! Don’t play the comparison game. The whole getting totally sidetracked and consumed by what other people are doing prevents you from focusing and growing your own account. Think about what you would actually say if you were texting a friend. Emojis are cute and great, but the Instagram algorithm doesn’t communicate in emojis. Yes, the algorithm changes daily, but the algorithm, and quite frankly people in general, respond better to words! If you’re trying to grow your following and engagement, Kristen recommends liking and commenting on the first 10 accounts that pop up on your feed each time you open the Instagram app, no matter what they are (small biz accounts, long lost friends, doesn’t matter). Leave thoughtful, meaningful likes and comments, and you’ll find yourself starting to build social relationships - that’s really what it’s all about anyways! Plus, it’s really hard to not support people who support you. On another but related note, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is - Kristen will touch more on this during a future episode on influencer fraud.

2. YOU HAVE TO DECIDE IF YOU’RE GOING TO USE INSTAGRAM AS A HOBBY, OR FOR BUSINESS.

If you decide you’re in it for business, make the switch over from a personal account to a business account to take advantage of the special features that come with that type of account. Once you decide, stick to it and really commit!

3. KNOW WHEN TO POST

The insights that are on the business account (another reason to make the switch!) will help you to see what times of day your audience is most active, among other things. Another thing to think about is what industry you’re in and who your audience is. If you’re a food blogger and influencer, it might make sense to post around times when people get hungry (think lunch or dinner time). For Kristen as an influencer in the design space, the best time to post is in the early morning and in the late afternoon/evenings when people might be scrolling for inspiration. Do some research, pay attention to your engagement at different times of day and work posting times into your overall strategy.

4. DON’T OVERTHINK IT, BUT MAKE SURE THERE’S A VARIETY IN THE POSTS ON YOUR FEED

Kristen personally has never planned her content ahead of time using a content planner, or planned multiple posts at once, because she always wants to make sure she’s incorporating things happening real time. While she feels like there are some people who have to have it all planned out, she pulls content from current projects, installs, travel and trips, her outfits, etc. for her daily posts. On really busy days, she will however plan content ahead for that day. This will consist of her post in the morning and evening, and will do some stories in the morning and let the day go from there. Kristen prides herself on answering every DM she receives on Instagram and will make time to do so during the evening after her girls go to bed. In a nutshell, it’s all about figuring out the strategy that works for YOU and managing your time accordingly.

5. IF YOU SELL SOMETHING, DO NOT PREACH IT. TELL A STORY INSTEAD.

What will inspire your audience to connect with your product or service? Figure out the value for your audience, tap into that to not only make sales, but build a genuine online presence and an actively engaged community. If you constantly shove products or services down people’s throats and every post is telling you to buy something, it’s likely your content won’t resonate well with your audience. Part of being social on social media is wanting to leave your audience with that “warm fuzzy feeling” when you post. Yes. You absolutely want to be selling on Instagram, but you may need to tweak your sales technique and package your content in a way that feels authentic to the people who will be on the receiving end. Think about that as your end goal with your content, and sales will come naturally.

6. PAY ATTENTION TO THE LEVEL OF YOUR CONTENT FROM A VISUAL STANDPOINT

Instagram is a visual platform based on a feed and a single photo + caption at a time. It’s also important to note that as a whole, Instagram is a very pretty place. If you don’t up your game when it comes to your visuals, how will you stand out and make any impact? Kristen mentions that luckily, the interior design industry is very aesthetically pleasing by default. While the design team will post before and after photos, if you pay attention you’ll notice that the before photos are never posted on the feed because it would throw off all of the curated and high level photography used. Not every image needs to be high res or professionally photographed, but there’s no reason to put out unedited content given the amount of resources we have readily available in the palms of our hands (ie; Lightroom, Lightroom presets, VSCO, etc). Kristen doesn’t use the same preset or filter for every type of photo. She’ll use one for photos of interior projects, another for travel, another for her girls, etc. Play around with the editing software that is most comfortable for you to use and make tweaks based on the needs of the photo. For example, lighting will be different based on your location - how will you need to add or take away exposure? You should also make sure the coloring of your photos all correspond well in your grid - don’t know what we’re talking about when we say “grid”? Click here to read and learn more. Don’t get lazy and put out half-assed content that’s not to the level you need to be sharing just because you feel like you need to post. In Kristen’s mind, she would rather just not post than put something out that’s not up to par. Don’t take two steps forward just to take 10 steps back. Try to be consistent and don’t be lazy.

7. USE HASHTAGS

Kristen read somewhere that hashtags don’t mean anything anymore and from her personal experience, that is totally false. Hashtags are still one of the best ways for you and your content to be discoverable on Instagram to new people. Best part? They’re FREE. Kristen has gotten partnerships, collaborations, new followers and regrams, all from using hashtags. Here’s what works for her:

  • Use 25-30 hashtags per post. She has about 10 blocks of hashtags that she’ll rotate based on the subject matter of her content. If you use the same hashtag block for every single post, it’s only going to show your post in the exact same place every time. Be more strategic than that so your post will be seen in more places.

  • Choose hashtags that have more than 25,000 posts, but less than 1,000,000. Hashtags are an indexing system and it will be easy for your content to become swallowed up if you use hashtags with upwards toward 1,000,000 posts.

  • Have you researched your hashtags? Actually click on them to see what the posts are that have also used that hashtag. Is it content that you want to be associated with?

8. FOR GOD SAKE RESPOND

Kristen responds to every direct message that she gets. She can’t always give the answers that people want, she still responds. Not only is this beneficial to you personally because it humanizes your brand, Instagram wants you to respond! Instagram looks for accounts that engage in conversation (“two-sided relationships”) when serving content to your followers. Genuinely try to respond with at least four words and punctuation, not just emojis.

9. MAKE SURE YOU’RE CREATING ORIGINAL CONTENT

Like with most things in life, content creation is a balance. It’s okay to regurgitate and repost (WITH proper credits!!) other people’s content, but not without also weaving in your own. Don’t let creating original content be daunting - it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be your own! Think about the purpose of your account. If the purpose of your account is solely sharing inspiration and other people’s content, great! If it’s not, you need to also be posting your own projects and creating your own stuff.

10. ALWAYS BE BRANDED

Make sure you’re YOU! Make sure you sound like you, look like you and are representative of your brand! “When people think of design, I want them to think of me. The same is true in my visual presence on Instagram. When people see my content, I want them to think of me and know it’s mine,” says Kristen. Before posting anything, ask yourself, “Is this me?”, “Is this my brand?” If you have to think about it for longer than 10 seconds, you probably shouldn’t be posting it. Be consistent. Be catchy. Be original.

Links


Ep. 1: The Backstory + 5 Biz Tips for Startups

It's the moment you've all been waiting for! The LCo Podcast is happening people! In this first episode, we meet Kristen Forgione, Creator + Principal Designer (and now podcast host!) of THE LifeStyled COMPANY Design Firm and Retail Shop. Kristen started this podcast from a place of, “how can I help?” and as a way to better connect with all of you! 

After 10 years in career fields from finance to hospitality, it was her stint in Los Angeles fashion school, that reignited her childhood passion for all things color + design. Now calling Arizona home, LCo has lead the west coast design market for the last six years, with clients nationwide, a design studio, retail shop and a team of desert loving designers and support staff. 

In this first episode, Kristen dives right in giving listeners a behind the scenes look into her journey so far, the “death of the moment,” five biz tips for startups and SO much more!  Listening on the go? No worries! We took notes for you. Let’s get to it!

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THE BACKSTORY

LCo was established in 2012 after a wild ride that took Kristen from Arizona to California and back again. With talent and timing on her side, Kristen grew a one woman side hustle into a multi-million dollar company in just six years.

Kristen was born in San Diego, and grew up loving and excelling in all things creative. When it came time for college, there wasn’t a school in AZ that offered a design program other than architecture at the time. After a brief conversation with her parents and discussing potentially going to school to study dance (a lifelong hobby she had), Kristen’s dad suggested studying business instead and before ya know it, Kristen enrolled in Arizona State University for a business degree! Kristen ended up staying for two years doing more boozing and bartending than studying, and eventually dropped out (she wouldn’t change a thing because it’s part of her story and why she’s where she is now). Her boyfriend at the time was from the Los Angeles area, wanted to move back to California and Kristen saw an opportunity knocking. She packed her bags, moved with him to LA and finally got the chance to pursue a degree in fashion. She enrolled in fashion school at SMC and instantly fell in love. “Fashion school for me was everything I wanted my college experience to be, but never had,” says Kristen. Not only was she excelling in school, but she was also taking advantage of the LA lifestyle and put her bartending skills back to work doing bottle service at a swanky LA club. Time passed by and Kristen began missing her family and home in Arizona, and it started to become obvious that her time in LA, as amazing as it was, was coming to a close. This beautiful year of her life reignited her passion and confidence that she would definitely be involved in a creative career in her lifetime.

She finished one semester of fashion school, was back at home and back at square one at age 23 trying to figure out how to make something out of all of her creative skills and experience thus far. With the support of her parents and best friends, Kristen picked herself up and jumped back into life in Arizona. One of Kristen’s friends worked in events at a high end resort in town, and was looking for someone to take over her job as she moved on to a new opportunity. With Kristen’s arsenal of experience in the service industry, she landed the job and soon took over as the lobby bar event coordinator. This opportunity not only launched her career BUT she also met her husband, Vince. They went on a pseudo date, talked at a neighborhood dive bar until 2 AM and it’s safe to say, the rest is history. They moved in together within two weeks, were engaged within two months and headed back to California (this time Orange County) when Vince got a promotion with their company, and really started their lives together. Kristen and Vince got married within a year and then got pregnant six months after that with their first daughter, Harper Rose.

After a year years in California, life brought them back to Arizona and Kristen went back to her corporate job, this time doing both weddings and events. This opportunity gave her the chance to create, further develop her skills and establish herself as a young professional. Kristen and Vince would be back in Arizona for a short two years before THE LifeStyled COMPANY was born. In 2011, Kristen started an Etsy shop selling printables, and around the same time, Kristen and Vince bought their first house, which prompted her to also start a blog, called THE LifeStyled COMPANY. The blog was intended to be a way for her to document and share their renovation, DIY projects and designing on a budget. At the time, Pinterest was brand new and Instagram didn’t yet exist, so Facebook was THE THING and only way to be social on the internet. Kristen would get regular inquiries from friends, family and strangers asking if she could style their home, so in an effort to see if she could really make a career out of her passion, she decided to host a contest on Facebook where she would give away free styling sessions.

Kristen put out the contest on Facebook, got 20 entries and was blown away at how many people were interested! She picked three winners, got each project professionally photographed (which was huge!), got great feedback and continued to write. Kristen always had an idea of what she wanted her future to be, and things were coming together! It was about six months from the very first blog post and the time that Kristen quit her corporate job to jump into THE LifeStyled COMPANY full-time. While that may sound really fast and sunshine and rainbows, it was really working two full-time jobs, which most people tend to do when starting their own business.

Word was catching on and after Kristen had a couple tv segments, her and Vince really sat down and figured out what they could cut out so she could leave her corporate job once and for all. They saved $20,000 before she quit after 1 year of lean expenses, not adding additional money to their savings or 401k, and no travel. Kristen gave her corporate job a month’s notice and hit the ground running. When it comes to leaving a job, she advises to leave on the VERY best of terms. Kristen was open enough with her company on her goals and intentions so that if in a year the entrepreneurial route didn’t work out, she could go back. “Life is hopefully very long,” Kristen says, “but it’s a small world and you never want to burn any bridges or leave in a sour way.”

Kristen didn’t take any time off during her transition, and didn’t allow herself the flexibility that many people think comes with being an entrepreneur. With new gigs come new titles, and Kristen was adamant about calling herself an interior stylist at the time, not a designer. The reason? She hadn’t actually designed anything yet - she was taking what was already made and rearranging it in a way that was visually appealing. She was specific about that title because she was self taught, a two-time college dropout, didn’t want to be offensive to those who had letters after their names and felt it was important for her to earn her stripes. Right at first, Kristen was still working from home doing events, weddings and parties. THE LifeStyled COMPANY name made perfect sense because Kristen was styling all aspects of your life and when she started, she was offering services in all of those areas too. Fast forward a year of doing the hustle, she started to realize that she couldn’t keep changing her hat that many times a day and eventually retired from weddings to dive head first into doing interiors full time. Things began snowballing and after two years of working from home, Kristen moved into her first office space and hired her first employee after realizing the intern route wasn’t the way to go (more on that later).

Needless to say, Kristen knows a thing or two about starting a business! As more and more episodes get released, you’ll begin to learn even more about all that it took for her to build LCo into the successful and noteworthy company it is today!

5 BIZ TIPS FOR STARTUPS

  1. IDENTIFY YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE EARLY

    As an entrepreneur, Kristen says that if she would have listened to everyone and more than just a few trusted people, she doesn’t know if she’d be in the same spot today. It takes a lot of guts, confidence and come to Jesus conversations with yourself AND your circle of influence to start a business. Everyone has an opinion - decide who in your world matters and whose opinion you’re willing to take with you into the next phase of your business journey.

  2. THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE IN TWO PHASES: THE NOW FUTURE (NOW) + THE FUTURE, FUTURE (2-5 YEARS), AND BE WILLING TO PIVOT ALWAYS

    To Kristen, success came because she was never so committed to what she wanted personally that she couldn’t see what else was happening right in front of her. 98% of business owners hold on for too long., and when you hold on too long you lose the ability to make decisions. Leave your peripherals open enough that you are committed enough to keep going, jump in and be wise, but not so committed that you miss everything else that’s happening and you can’t pivot. It’s important to remember that pivoting is different than abandoning ship. A major pivot point in business for Kristen came when she stopped thinking about herself and started serving others. This changed things for her employees and changed everything for her as a boss, business owner, entrepreneur and member of community.

  3. PUT THE TASKS AND ACTIONS THAT ARE REVENUE DRIVING FOR YOUR BUSINESS AT THE TOP OF YOUR DAILY LIST

    Something that worked for Kristen is following the 70/30 rule. Spend 70% of your time doing the revenue driving and most rewarding tasks, and 30% doing everything else. Because she did this, it allowed her to get out of the minutia of the everyday and get more clients, do better projects and frankly, do cooler sh*t. Following this rule will allow you to operate and see what you should and should not be dedicating your time to.

  4. KEEP YOUR EXPENSES LOW FOR AS LONG AS YOU CAN

    Can you design your own business cards and website? Do it. Do your research and find different cost options for things like printing, etc. Try to keep as many things in house as you can and DO NOT fall victim to business subscriptions that many people think are necessities. Do things the old fashioned way using excel spreadsheets, and don’t buy things that you don’t need yet.

  5. BRING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF INTO YOUR BUSINESS IN A PROFESSIONAL WAY AS EARLY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE, AND THEN TALK ABOUT IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

    Go as deep as you can to identify and figure out two things: who your authentic self is AND why you’re different. Why is your business different? How does your service offering and experience for your clients differ from others in your industry? Is your aesthetic different? Is your location different? TALK ABOUT IT. Find your tribe. Find the people that are speaking the same language as you. This will also help distinguish your unique value proposition without even trying.

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