There is always a solution. I found myself in some really sticky situations, particularly when I was living in Marrakech and didn’t speak French or Arabic fluently. I learned that there is always a solution, and once you realize that, you will go on to live a far happier and less anxious life. Some problems may require solutions that force you down a business path you weren’t planning to take. But the outcome can open unexpected windows of opportunity, and the results can be quite extraordinary.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sophie Bowman. Sophie is that Brit who launched her social media and branding agency online 6 years ago so that she could travel the world and work from home in her pants. Sophie founded Brand Branding PR LLC — an agency which creates customized social media solutions specifically for entrepreneurs from generating a niche brand identity to telling a consistent, engaging brand story online. Sophie is also a published journalist and foreign correspondent for a leading UK magazine and has been a ghostwriter for some of the biggest names in the entertainment business.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Branding and social media was my side hustle while teaching special needs kids in London. I had an early midlife crisis in my late twenties and realized I had never lived abroad or traveled to half the places on my bucket list. I decided to launch an online agency specifically for entrepreneurs to help them find their niche, create a powerful brand, and tell their story in an engaging way on social media. Targeting such a niche sector attracted an influx of clients from every corner of the world, allowing me to live in Morocco for two years, travel Australia, and take part in a European car rally before relocating to Miami three years ago.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I first relocated to Miami, I was adamant that I wanted to ditch European clients and focus on the American market. It was tough. I had no credibility here, and I was existing on a really low income at first with no credit history so I couldn’t even get a credit card or a business mobile. After the expense of relocating, I had to give 5 months security to guarantee my own apartment in Miami Beach without a credit history here, so that was rough. Thankfully, I’m pretty good at handling my finances so I got by, but I have no idea how. I’m not a big shopper, so that’s probably one of the personality traits that saved me. I think I lived on rice and sweetcorn for around two months.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I made a promise to myself a few years ago to become financially self-sufficient in an unstable economy, and I’m pretty stubborn and focused once I have my mind or heart set on something. Maintaining a positive mindset is critical to keep up with the entrepreneurial roller coaster. I make it a point to follow a lot of motivational and inspirational people on social media so that my brain is constantly registering positive messages throughout the day. Follow entrepreneurs and leaders like Loren Ridinger, Richard Branson, Happsters, and leaders in your field to reset your attitude when you’re having a bad day.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Word of mouth is your business BFF. Once you start delivering results to clients and go the extra mile for them, they will recommend you to all of their friends, family, and business associates. If you always provide solutions to all clients’ problems, you become an irreplaceable asset.
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?
When I started six years ago, I started by signing up monthly clients instead of getting to know the industry first. I figured I’d work it out as I went along. Before I familiarized myself with the social media tools and platforms available to me, I was setting a million daily alarms on my phone reminding me to post for which client on which platform at what time. It was ridiculous, it was unnecessarily stressful, and the iPhone Radar (default) alarm sound will forever haunt me.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I tailored my services specifically to the requirements of entrepreneurs. I realized how many startup business owners were coming to me with great ideas but little knowledge of the importance of branding. They were asking me to figure out their social media strategy before they had a brand identity. You can’t create a successful social media strategy without knowing a brand’s values, objectives, and who their target customer is. It’s a waste of their time and money. Once you have your brand blueprint, you can create a strategy for greatness. I like channeling my inner Richard Branson and challenging the business status quo — if everyone in my industry is going right, I’ll go left. Everyone is so uninclined to help people get a foot into their industry, like there’s not enough business to go around. No one was helping aspiring Instagram influencers by sharing industry insider knowledge, so I created a step-by-step guide on How to become a paid Instagram influencer that interested parties can download and implement themselves.
My Richard Branson approach to saying ‘YES’ to everything and figuring it out as I went along served me pretty well. Everyone tells you to stick to one thing, but if I had listened to them and not branched out I would have been out of work years ago. Being open to opportunities allowed me to work on some awesome projects, like launch parties for Kanye West and John Legend, and having my own monthly column in a leading UK magazine as a foreign correspondent based in Miami. I studied Business & Public Relations at University — as we know, magazines and newspapers are mostly dead now. Staying a step ahead and branching out into other areas of modern PR, like social media, saved me.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I’m my own worst enemy on this. I probably work an average of 60 hours per week. I always feel like I can be doing more, getting better results, and I like researching innovative ways to get bigger and better social media results. I’m a social media nerd, in summary. I did start feeling the toll this year when I broke my jaw in a bike accident in April, and my health deteriorated for a while around the time a close friend passed away unexpectedly. It was a reminder that being present is as important as achieving your goals, so I made a conscious decision to try and take weekends for myself now. At least Sundays anyway.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My early clients when I was starting out. Some really big brands and well-known entrepreneurs took a chance on me when I had nothing other than my personality and work ethic to bring to the table. They took a chance on me, then referred everyone they knew to me because I delivered results, and for that I will always be indebted to them. I’ve worked with some amazing American clients too who I’m equally grateful to, always!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I was lucky enough to be one of the guest judges for the Young Enterprise in the UK — a nationwide initiative that supports 16–18-year-old entrepreneurs launching a business idea. Think Shark Tank, but for teenagers. I’d love to get involved with more projects like that here in the USA but I’m not yet familiar with anything similar here. I spend a lot of time responding to Instagram DM’s from young aspiring entrepreneurs and influencers. You could never regret giving time to help people upgrade their lives. I was a volunteer counselor for a while in the UK too for the NSPCC which launched ChildLine — a dial-in emergency number for abused children to get help. I’d love to one day open a chain of children’s homes here focused on helping abused kids get the help and love they need, and getting them out of the foster care system. I get attached easily, so I’ll probably end up adopting them all and a bunch of rescue animals too. I’m going to need a much bigger house…
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. You’ll outgrow most of your friends, and that’s OK!
You’ll struggle to spend time around former associates who have zero ambition or goals, or those who find a problem for every solution. When I first relocated to Miami, I knew no one. I made friends with some cool local club and bar promoters but mostly met party girls through them. They were fun but didn’t understand the fact I was trying to launch a successful business and couldn’t just party my way through the week and not hold myself accountable to my workload and my clients. I learned nothing from these people, grew bored of them and completely outgrew them, and I’m totally fine with that. Keep your circle small, and enriched with positive people who inspire you to do better and keep you on your path, especially on the bad days. It was pretty lonely until I finally met some like-minded friends who have a lot more substance.
2. It’s lonely on your way to the top.
If you’re committed to fulfilling your business objectives, you’ll need to be comfortable with your own company, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time alone — especially if you’re single. You need to learn to trust your judgment as you’ll need to make important decisions alone at first. While everyone’s partying, you’ll need to eradicate FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and embrace JOMO (Joy of Missing Out), knowing you’re sacrificing another weekend for the greater good. Starting a business is isolating. You will spend a lot of time alone, so you need to get comfortable with yourself. I’ve become so comfortable in my own company that I can go days or even weeks without seeing or speaking to anyone, and I’m scarily fine with that. Don’t forget to live alongside building your empire though. Time is your most precious commodity that you’ll never get back. Delegate the menial tasks so that you can focus on business development and having a life. Otherwise you could wake up one day and realize you’ve likely missed the opportunity to start a family of your own.
3. You’re going to make stupid, completely avoidable mistakes.
Learn to laugh at yourself. Learn to ask for advice from people who have been in the business game a lot longer than you. It’s the only way to keep your sanity and evolve as an entrepreneur. No matter how hard you work, you will make mistakes. The only thing that matters is how you handle yourself when you do. Own it, learn from it and move on from it with a little extra wisdom and you’ll be fine — the alternative won’t win you any fans from your clients.
4. Being yourself is your most powerful USP.
I’ve lost count of how many times I was told to dress a certain way or style my hair or how I should act before an important meeting. Sure, there is some truth to it. You will always be judged on your appearance, so you need to make a positive first impression. Few people would want to invest in a sloppy, unprepared person who looks like they don’t have their life under control. However, clients and investors are investing in you as much as they are investing in your business model, so don’t be afraid to let the real you out. People dig authenticity.
5. There is always a solution.
I found myself in some really sticky situations, particularly when I was living in Marrakech and didn’t speak French or Arabic fluently. I learned that there is always a solution, and once you realize that, you will go on to live a far happier and less anxious life. Some problems may require solutions that force you down a business path you weren’t planning to take. But the outcome can open unexpected windows of opportunity, and the results can be quite extraordinary.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
Being nice to others and complimenting them is not a weakness. Positivity is contagious. Complimenting other people on their looks, style, or skillset doesn’t take away from your own value. I have attended so many entrepreneur, influencer, and modeling events where a handful of attendees sauntered in clearly brainwashed into thinking you have to be the loudest, most arrogant, and meanest person in the room to be noticed. You may succeed in intimidating a few people, but you won’t succeed in winning any admirers. Being genuinely kind to strangers is the most natural thing in the world, and people don’t want to do business with unpleasant people if they don’t have to. The same goes for social media. If you click on a celebrity’s last Instagram post and read the comments, you’ll likely be surprised how many trolls are out there attempting to provoke a reaction by insulting their appearance, intelligence, or family. Imagine how different the world would be if everyone spread positivity instead of negativity? The same goes for how you speak to yourself. Negative self-talk can destroy everything good in your life from your relationships to your body language and confidence, and how you feel about yourself on the daily; like a toxic ‘friend.’ Stamp out that negative inner voice like you would a cockroach running at you in the pitch dark.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.