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Sharon Haver of FocusOnStyle.com: “Make it personal and take them along for the ride”

Visualize your perfect workday and create a business that honors it.It is way too easy to come up with a million ideas, hire business coaches for support and oversimplify the process. Ideas come fast, yet proper execution can take a substantially longer amount of time. As an entrepreneur, it’s a given that you will work […]

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Visualize your perfect workday and create a business that honors it.
It is way too easy to come up with a million ideas, hire business coaches for support and oversimplify the process. Ideas come fast, yet proper execution can take a substantially longer amount of time. As an entrepreneur, it’s a given that you will work longer hours than if you work for someone else, particularly in the starting years.

However, if you’re pivoting to create a brand that supports your lifestyle, you don’t want to weigh your life down. Do due diligence to every aspect from inception to fulfillment. Honestly look at what is involved and see how you can tweak to simplify and honor your lifestyle. Hire the right people before you need them and if you’re doing it all yourself, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Look at every turn that could be simplified. Your hours may not be “normal’ (long or short), but they should suit you.


As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Haver.

Sharon Haver knows that positioning is the new currency. She is the catalyst to next level entrepreneurs and modern business owners who realize it takes more than expertise for you and your business to stand out in a crowded market. Sharon channels her expertise to allow you to show up fully so you can confidently be positioned to get high-level clients and opportunities while being the best at being you.

Sharon is the Founder and CEO of FocusonStyle.com, online since 1999, the website dedicated to helping you and your business get out there. Her trainings come from real world experience throughout an accomplished three-decade career in style and online entrepreneurship.

She is a former syndicated advice columnist on the Scripps Howard News Wire where her column was distributed to 400 newspapers each week. Sharon or her work have been seen in the media nearly 1,000 times, including Real Simple, CNN.com, Martha Stewart Radio, Oprah.com, ELLE, WeightWatchers.com, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, WebMD, Disney Family.com, Entrepreneur.com, Forbes.com, and more.

She is a 15-year veteran as a New York fashion photography stylist (styling everything from Vogue covers to making polyester sweats look so chic you would actually want to buy them). As the style guru, she starred in her own national Macy’s TV commercial as herself. Sharon headlined in an anthology lifestyle book alongside other writers like President Jimmy Carter and Gloria Steinem. She holds a business degree in marketing which has fueled her career. Sharon is the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller book, StyleWORD: Fashion Quotes for Real Style.

She hosts the 7 Days to Amazing Podcast, featuring guests like Carson Kressley, Joan Juliet Buck, Larry Winget, Dorie Clark, Alison Levine, and more. As a curriculum creator Sharon has launched several modulated info-educational programs, including Simply Amazing Headshots: How to Tell Your Story From The Collar Up, Authentic Superstar, Video Quickstarter, Start It Up Right, Modern Business Makeover, Modern Business lab, Modern Business Academy, The Content Creation Course, The C’est Chic Crash Course plus numerous masterclasses, workshops, and events. Best of all, Sharon has been her own boss for decades.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/8559bc3aaa4d97d5ad0f382fe68d6105


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I’m an only child from a very middle-class family in Brooklyn, NY (before it was cool). I was raised to be both a feminist and independent. Neither was railed down my throat, but more a byproduct of the time I grew up in. When I was little my dad was in advertising and I was fascinated with listening to cheesy commercial jingles on the agency records he would bring home. My mom was in accounting. Eventually dad moved to medical sales and my mom always reminisced about her time in fashion. I’ve had a sassy and smart toy poodle as a sidekick since I was six.

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?

I had a chubby phase as a kid and felt more confident when I dressed in a way that made me feel great. My mom was obsessed with designer discount stores so we could have the upscale look on our budget. I learned everything about fashion and style from rifling through sale racks at Loehmann’s and finding the gems with the labels ripped out because the price was so low.

The confidence in putting myself together sparked my interest in fashion yet when it was time to pick a college and a major my parents were very clear that it would not be fashion. I hated that at the time, but it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I have a BBA degree in Marketing, and it has enabled me to be nimble in changing careers that align with my current pursuits.

After a stint in public relations, I became an in-demand fashion stylist on photoshoots for 15 years. I styled everything from the covers of Vogue to polyester sweatpants. Since I understood brand positioning, I was able to make those sweats look so good you’d actually want to buy them.

Then I got the wild idea to have a newspaper advice column like ‘Dear Abby’ but for fashion, beauty, and style. I pitched and pitched until the head of the Scripps Howard News Service said he would put “candles on my catwalk.” ‘Focus on Style by Sharon Haver,’ the print column was born. It was distributed to 400 newspapers each week.

A few years later there was another birth. My son.

It was 1999 and I was as techy as I am capable of landing a Learjet. I left the newswire to move to a syndicator. Let’s just say the deal became wrinkly.

My three-month maternity leave quickly dissolved. I was left with loyal newspapers who were pre-sold my ‘new’ column, and who counted on me to fill the spot in their paper.

I couldn’t let them down.

Here I was with mom brain, an infant, enough chutzpah to be dangerous, and scrappy enough to create a B2B website during ‘nap time’ to possibly self-syndicate my column.

Next thing I knew, my new website, FocusOnStyle.com, started getting consumer readers and morphed into a destination lifestyle hub!

I became techy, leveraged my prior expertise for visibility (to date my work or I have been featured in the media nearly 1,000 times), and figured out SEO. I was #1 in Google search for ‘fashion expert’ for ten years!

You could say FocusOnStyle.com started as a seat of my pants business and I’m a mompreneur. But I was never that precise in anything beyond the now and the big vision. I wish I could say that I had a fancy business plan and 3–5–10 year goals when I decided to be an online entrepreneur. But I didn’t even think that strategically at the time. I was more of a problem solver. I created a lifestyle-based business without actually realizing it.

Through the years, my business has expanded to encompass style as the fingerprint of everything that makes you uniquely you with products and services that help get you and your modern business out there.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I never met a worthwhile challenge that I couldn’t take head on.

When I launched FocusOnStyle.com I had my first of many subsequent let downs by tech people. There was a huge opportunity, deadline hours away, and my brand new site suddenly “disappeared” because of a M.I.A. web developer. All I had was a “page not found” error where my site should be.

Desperate, I called Microsoft tech and got a very understanding support person who saved me. He told me to run to my nearest Staples, buy a copy of Microsoft FrontPage, call him back and he would help me rebuild my website.

We worked into the wee hours. I just about missed my deadline but learned an incredible lesson in never being a damsel in distress to any vendor. I vowed to know how to do almost everything on my own and only delegate with crystal clear deliverables.

I’ve always said that tech is a four letter word. However, it’s pretty cool to be able to tame the beast and know your stuff, particularly when you have an online or virtual business.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I’m much more grounded in personal and professional development based education. For inspiration, I prefer things out of my niche, like art and design, that offer a broader viewpoint. But there are definite media hallmarks that I always come back to. They all have an underlying “never give up” theme.

Movies:

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” 1967. It’s a very 1960’s based musical about a window cleaner who reads a book of the same name and connives his way up the old school corporate ladder. It’s a fun analogy for creating a manufactured personality in the social media age.

“Working Girl,” 1987. This film is all about rooting for the underdog who gets her idea stolen in business. The best line is her naysaying friend who warns, “Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. That doesn’t make me Madonna. Never will.” She was thankfully wrong.

Joy,” 2015. This one is about Joy Mangano who invents the detachable, self-wringing mop and becomes a self-made millionaire. Favorite line is “we got here from hard work, patience, and humility.”

Books:

“Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person,” by Shonda Rhimes. A great reminder to get out of your own way and say yes to trying new things.

“Diary Of A Mad Diva,” by Joan Rivers. An opinionated, funny diary with a punchline at every turn. Kind of like life.

The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience, by Hillary Rodman Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. The title says it all. I waited in line at Barnes and Noble like a schoolgirl to meet Secretary of State Clinton and have my book signed. I told her that the last time I was so tongue tied meeting someone was when I met Audrey Hepburn.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Oh, that’s easy! Once in a speaker training seminar we were asked what our P.O.V. was that applies to every instance. It was immediate for me, “If you do something every day, learn to do it right.”

It’s too easy to skirt the tasks we dislike or are afraid of doing. Yet if we took the time to achieve mastery on what we do each day those same tasks would be a breeze.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, let’s define our terms. How do you define a Lifestyle Brand?

A lot of people think a lifestyle brand is a company that sells stuff to suit a certain lifestyle. While that is true for many product-based businesses, there is a broader meaning when it comes to service-based businesses, experts, consultants, and entrepreneurs.

A lifestyle-based business is creating a personal brand that supports the way you choose to live your life, which in turn is magnetic to your followers, customers, clients and base. You are presenting your way of life to inspire, motivate and connect without being straight-up sales-y.

It’s going a step further by infusing your personality into a personal brand that authentically aligns with not only who you are but how you choose to spend your hours.

You are the face of your brand who is both aspirational and relatable to your target audience.

How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?

A lifestyle brand doesn’t lead with the offers or products, but with the person who creates them. There is a connection and relationship with the individual who therefore becomes the brand’s biggest asset.

Lifestyle brands have grown over the past few years because of social media. With the pandemic and more people pivoting their style of business, a lifestyle brand is key to having the unique differential to stand out in a crowded market.

What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?

These days a lifestyle brand converts the best because it’s more relatable and native to digital platforms than a straight up ad that is obviously selling something.

The added benefit is that you only need your cell phone to get started documenting your life, having more conversational copy, and amplifying yourself as your biggest lead magnet.

In today’s modern world that little phone device is the new television, radio, publishing house, photography and production studio. It’s what your target market is familiar with. It is what you use 80% of the time. It becomes a no-brainer.

Yet, being this “real,” particularly in branding photos and video, was difficult for me at first. I was used to being behind the scenes for so many years. That’s why I created the AuthenticSuperstar.com free challenge to help others get comfortable being themselves on camera.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Rachel Hollis is a fantastic example of a relatable lifestyle brand. Her tagline says it all, “a better life in simple, achievable steps.” Rachel is able to turn the mundane like a morning run into a motivational pep talk by simply turning on the video of her phone. Her brand encompasses the day to day life of a busy mom to how to increase personal and business growth.

The beauty of an authentic lifestyle brand is that no one can replicate it because it is unique to that person. But one can certainly model a successful brand by tweaking it to who you really are and understanding the importance of a backend to create revenue streams.

Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?

It’s key to be both relatable and aspirational so that you connect yet are still a smidge closer to where they want to be. I call this achievable aspiration.

You humanize yourself and your expertise so it’s more like talking to a well-informed friend rather than reading a textbook. Your origin story then becomes magnetic to how your audience, customers, and clients relate to you.

It’s a lot like that famous classic movie scene in “When Harry Met Sally.” Your people should look at you and think, “I want what she’s having.”

What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Not having the confidence to scrape off the layers of veneer and be a human.

I asked the king of documenting, Gary Vaynerchuk, why he thought so many entrepreneurs were hiding behind overly slick branding shoots and his response was spot on. “People are not willing to be themselves.”

Being you is your greatest asset. It was what forms an unforgettable personal lifestyle brand.

Overly staged and superficial branding that can represent anyone is a sure way to get drowned out in an already crowded market. There are so many cookie-cutter wannabe influencer brands out there that they become almost impossible to distinguish one from another.

Whereas a strong and authentic lifestyle brand eliminates competition because only you can be you.

Have the confidence to own your distinctive point of view, be intentional, and throw perfectionism out the window.

You don’t need to reveal too much… just enough to create a bond. Similar to the amount of information that you share with a regular acquaintance, like the conversation you have within your dry cleaner.

No one wants to know every wart, but a little pimple here and there is human. And that degree of transparency and authenticity is exactly what creates a bond with your target market and supports your lifestyle platform.

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Become one with how your particular genius zone of expertise can benefit others.

Dig deep into who you are, what you believe in, what gives you the right to help others and magnify it into your brand values. No one needs to know this beyond you so be brutally honest with yourself. This will not only help build your platform but assist you in your storytelling, both visual and written, so that your content can then become about how you can help your target market achieve their desires.

Once you are certain about that, really take a heartfelt look into how you want to spend your day, what lights you up, what makes your eyes bleed, and what vehicles you can create without getting dragged into endless rabbit holes.

Particularly if you are bootstrapping and pivoting your expertise into this new venture, you want to clarify what is within your means to design your business… never forget that a lifestyle brand leads with you.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Sure! I’ve touched upon what you need to know to create a lifestyle brand but let’s hone in…

1 . Get out of your own way to be seen — Humanize yourself!
This was a hard one for me. My entire career, particularly my 15 years as a photography stylist, was “behind the scenes” and that was my comfort zone. I was so brainwashed by an industry that was so celebrity and model focused that I was hiding behind my own worth when there were bloggers and influencers out there who were full-on creating their own fame. It took me well over a decade to put my face above the logo even though I was doing all the work. Once I freed myself from being “private” to being the face of my brand the shift happened.

2. Make it personal and take them along for the ride. 
One of the most engaging things you can do is take your audience along for the ride. Show them your surroundings, let them in on the behind the scenes, the cool spots you travel to, and even the drab ones.

I started doing Quick Tips videos from wherever I was. Anywhere from the dog park to a vacation place to where I went for business. I honestly started this because I was too lazy to set up lights, but quickly realized that being anywhere was more engaging than being stagnant on the same set. It’s an incredible way to show your lifestyle and pretty darn easy, too. If location freedom is what you’re after, even for just a little bit, this type of real time connection is it.

Doing these “on the go” videos is very similar to a FaceTime video except you’re providing value. There are definite frameworks that keep you on point and I share them at VideoQuickStarter.com.

3. Understand what your target market needs before they even want it.

It’s critical to keep an authentic conversation going to be engaged with your target market.The best way to predict what your target market wants is to simply listen to them. Be aware of the questions they raise in programs, read their comments. Simply listen and watch as they verbalize their needs and demonstrate their visual storytelling before they even express it to themselves.

If you want to change markets or are just starting out and don’t have your own audience, borrow others. Read comments on social media, join Facebook groups, look at photos they post, be the fly on the wall. Collecting data is critical to helping you pivot and allows you to make the small tweaks to meet your audience’s needs.

4. Visualize your perfect workday and create a business that honors it.
It is way too easy to come up with a million ideas, hire business coaches for support and oversimplify the process. Ideas come fast, yet proper execution can take a substantially longer amount of time. As an entrepreneur, it’s a given that you will work longer hours than if you work for someone else, particularly in the starting years.

However, if you’re pivoting to create a brand that supports your lifestyle, you don’t want to weigh your life down. Do due diligence to every aspect from inception to fulfillment. Honestly look at what is involved and see how you can tweak to simplify and honor your lifestyle. Hire the right people before you need them and if you’re doing it all yourself, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Look at every turn that could be simplified. Your hours may not be “normal’ (long or short), but they should suit you.

5. Be nimble and flexible to stay relevant and charged.

There are going to be the unexpected twists, turns, and disappointments. The digital world changes faster than what happens in brick and mortar. So, do you best to remain attuned to your audience, shifts in your industry, what your competition is up to, etc. By investing in yourself as a continual student of your business you will always be ahead of the pack.

It’s so easy to rest on your laurels and be afraid to change yet not only does that chip away at your relevance in the market it also robs you of the charge and excitement of one of the greatest marketing and personal development mechanisms, what’s “new.”

Commit to continuous learning and you will always be able to bounce back from whatever is thrown your way. As an entrepreneur, personal development and mindset work is also crucial to maintaining the energy and drive you’ll need to succeed at every level.

Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

There have been so many shifts from the pandemic, which led to so many opportunities that may not have been as accessible before.

Nothing would fill my heart more than helping experts pivot their business model so they can nail a lifestyle based modern business and grow an authentic personal brand online.

There is definitely a movement of qualified individuals on the precipice of starting and growing their digital presence. I’ve learned so much since I pioneered my online business in 1999 that I’ve started providing guidance at StartItUpRight.com.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

In Martha We Trust. There is no one else that I can think of who excels in every aspect of a lifestyle brand than the one and only Martha Stewart. Martha laid the groundwork for what many lifestyle brands aspire to be.

She rose to fame with her books and tips on cooking, entertaining, and decorating, creating a household name recognized around the world. Martha then leveraged her lifestyle brand into products, a magazine and a television program. She embodies the ultimate lifestyle brand success story.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


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