Collaboration Over Competition — I learned early on in my first business that some people find your energy, excitement and thinking outside the box as competition and don’t make you feel welcome. I allowed for this to dampen my drive when I was first starting out. I have since realized that there are indeed people that also believe in the power of collaboration. Continue to put out into the world what you want to see more of and you’ll attract more people that are excited when they meet someone doing great things.
As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Heather Heuman, the CEO of Sweet Tea Social Marketing, host of the ‘Business, Jesus and Sweet Tea’ podcast and founder of Social Thrive Business Academy where she helps Christian business owners grow using social media marketing. She is an international social media speaker, strategist and consultant that specializes in helping businesses and brands discover how to grow in today’s noisy social marketplace with solid social media strategy that gets people to stop scrolling. Heather has worked with clients like Chick-fil-A, Wilson Sports, Chambers of Commerce and global brands during her 19 years in the digital marketing space. Heather lives in South Carolina with her husband and three kids and is the biggest fan of sweet tea you’ll ever meet!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Although I thought I was going to be a teacher inside the walls of a special education classroom as my career, circumstances quickly landed me on a different path. After needing a job quickly after a terrible personal devastation in my life in 1999, I found myself in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina as the Customer Service Manager at a local grocery retailer. The work was fine, but I was not in love with working crazy hours and holidays and found myself taking a $15,000 pay cut so I could work at a digital marketing agency as their office manager during regular weekday hours. Little did I know that this career change would be a huge pivot in my career, for the better. Over a two-year timeline, I was promoted to Project Manager and then transitioned to become a web designer and then later a graphic designer. This was the foundational bedrock for my love of digital marketing as you and I know it today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
I wish I could tell you my most interesting story didn’t impact my bank account, but it does. Last year I found myself chatting on the phone with someone that had been referred to me on Facebook by an online mentor. That referral led to them becoming a client and I made $72,000 of income as a result of that one phone call in a 9-month window for my consulting and done for you services. This was transformational in my life and continues to solidify to me the power of social media marketing for business growth and why my new book, The Golden Rules of Social Media Marketing, was so exciting for me to write to get practical strategies out for others to use to grow their businesses too.
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? For those of you that remember ICQ, it was one of the original instant messenger platforms and we used this as a regular means to communicate within the office at the digital marketing agency. I remember one afternoon messaging my co-worker and friend Melissa in the office about something completely not work related like going to her apartment at lunch and watching HGTV and I accidentally sent the message to the CEO. The lesson I learned from this was to always double check before sending texts, emails and messages to people.
Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?
My heart weighs heavy for the causes of human trafficking and fostering/adoption. And since I have been in business I have made it a top priority to use my social influence for the good of making a global impact among these areas. I donate 50% of the proceeds from a digital summit I created to help in fighting human trafficking. The course is ‘How She Built It: Growing Your Business Without Sacrificing Your Faith and Family’ and was specifically designed to help Christian women growing businesses. Additionally, 10% of the proceeds coming into my company are being donated to assist with fostering/adoptions throughout the United States. My husband and I are right now in the process of becoming foster parents and I’m leveraging social media to talk about that journey to foster. Our hope and prayer is that we share candidly about the journey to make it less scary for others that might be curious and serve as an outlet for them to hear from someone else that is walking in that journey. Too many times people shy away from these issues on social media, but the reality is, when people that have a heart for kindness and helping talk about the topics needing to be addressed, people are often times more willing to listen. Fostering/adopting may not be for every family, but if one family is inspired by our journey we will feel talking about it and using my social influence would be well worth it.
Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?
A family we know in South Carolina moved to Thailand summer 2018 to be the feet on the ground helping to fight human trafficking. They were willing to leave the comforts of their lives here in America to move across the world for this cause near and dear to my heart. So it was exciting for me to be able to send them a donation from the proceeds of my ‘How She Built It’ summit last year to aid in their journey of helping young girls and women in the red light districts of Thailand.
Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many struggles and areas of possibility to give back to the world but I felt these two areas as ones to focus on. The human trafficking topic is something I started to learn more about in 2011 and as a mom of three young children, it truly breaks my heart to even believe this is an issue we have throughout the entire world. When it comes to fostering/adopting, I can’t really say anything in particular happened, aside from watching and loving the movie Annie as a young girl, other than that it has been heavy on my heart since I was a teen and I consider it a joy to help where I can.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
1) More Empathy- I think that we as a society often times look at everything from a selfish perspective and we lack empathy for others.
2) Be Kind — Conflict will arise but how we handle ourselves when we’re in conversation with others and doing life could use a heavy dose of kindness for all human beings.
3) The Golden Rule — Treat others the way you would want to be treated. When this is taken into consideration, we would not have many of the issues we have in the world today.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Business isn’t easy but it certainly is worth it when you are showing up and making an impact for your family to have the life that allows the freedom and flexibility you crave but also allows you to make an impact on the community around you. Here are the 5 things I wish someone told me when I first started:
1) Collaboration Over Competition — I learned early on in my first business that some people find your energy, excitement and thinking outside the box as competition and don’t make you feel welcome. I allowed for this to dampen my drive when I was first starting out. I have since realized that there are indeed people that also believe in the power of collaboration. Continue to put out into the world what you want to see more of and you’ll attract more people that are excited when they meet someone doing great things.
2) Comparison is the Thief of Joy — I am extremely motivated and driven to do well in the things I aspire to do and this holds true in business as well. Because I enjoy growing and pushing myself I found that I would start looking at how someone else was doing in their business and it would lower my own drive to keep going. When I realized that the person I needed to be comparing myself to was me and my journey, it became so much easier to not only keep focused but also seeing the small wins.
3) Growth Requires Strategic Action — If you spend so much time learning and not enough time implementing it is very easy for the vision to feel like it isn’t getting any closer. And it is also quite possible to be doing activities that aren’t going to actually bring you closer to your revenue generating goals. Therefore, make sure that your efforts you are focusing on are directly tied to your business growth goals and do those smart actions in your business.
4) Be the Hot Fudge Sundae in the Midst of the Vanilla Ice Cream Cones — I’m one of the first people to tell you vanilla ice cream is quite tasty and it isn’t boring. But, my point here is that among all the people that do what you do, your customers are looking for their person to help them with exactly where they are right now. When I first started my second business in 2014, I was focused on helping any business owner that needed help with their social media marketing. But the more clear I got and the more focused I got on my vision, I realized I had a calling to serve Christian business owners and brands that were wanting to not only improve their social media marketing but that also wanted to make a kingdom impact. When I made this shift in my business in 2015, it not only allowed me to stand out among all the people that are social media strategist, but it allowed for me to be the ‘go-to’ for Christian brands and leaders. When you are brave enough to know who you are and who you aren’t, you make it that much easier for your customers to know you are the ideal person to help them with what they need.
5) Being Vulnerable is a Sign of Strength — The world may make you feel the opposite. It may make you feel you are weak when you show emotion and become vulnerable, but I know that when you lean into your heart and you speak from the truth and experiences of your life, it makes you more human. No matter what people say, no matter what marketing done well may feel like to you, people connect with people. Sharing in your business and messaging about adversity, hardships, triumphs and grit allow for people to know you care and the values that drive your mission. At the end of the day we all have a choice on how we choose to be vulnerable with our team, with clients, with our family and with community. Lean into the story you have and realize you can be vulnerable and share those pieces of your life in your business and the circumstances of your past doesn’t define you. How you choose to live despite them does.
You are a person of enormous influence. 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. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement it would be called Courageous Kindness. The world needs more people that are willing to just be kind. It is easy to love and be kind when others make us feel they deserve it or treat us exactly as we would like to be. Yet, we live in a time where people are hurting on the outside and lashing out,but look like everything is fine on the outside. My Courageous Kindness movement would empower people to treat others the way they would want to be treated, to demonstrate kindness unconditionally and to know that a smile and friendly tone can go a long way regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” This quote comes from Proverbs 18:2 in the Bible and has been a great encouragement to me to make sure that I keep an open ear and a willing heart to hear how other people feel, even if it is different from my own. It is so easy to separate the person from the topic, but when we realize at the end of the day we’re all part of the human race, I’d like us to be able to unite despite races, places of diversity and faith on a human level, something we can have connection on.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Marcus Lemonis as he has been one of my biggest inspirations to my business journey as an entrepreneur. His adoption journey he shares on the wildly successful show The Profit helped me have a human connection with him as fostering/adopting is something that has been heavy on my heart since I was 15 years old. Having an opportunity to sit and talk to him about his growing up in Miami and business strategy would be an absolute dream.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for asking. It would be wonderful to connect with your readers on social. Seriously, social media is my jam and happy place. It is the bedrock of the two businesses that I’ve created and grown from scratch.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heatherheuman/ (drop in my stories)
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!