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“Hire a business coach”, With Douglas Brown and Erin Joy of Black Dress Circle

Hire a business coach — it’s not just the business coach; it’s also the consultant, the attorney, the marketer. You need to surround yourself with the best resources who will come alongside you to build your business together. Your team is everything. And I do highly recommend a business coach as one of the people on your […]

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Hire a business coach — it’s not just the business coach; it’s also the consultant, the attorney, the marketer. You need to surround yourself with the best resources who will come alongside you to build your business together. Your team is everything. And I do highly recommend a business coach as one of the people on your team. There’s no substitute for the accountability, support and expertise a great coach brings to the table.


As a part of my series called “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Consulting Business ”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Joy.

A third-generation entrepreneur, Erin Joy has made it her life’s mission to help others succeed. From budding entrepreneurs to leaders heading up multi-million dollar companies, Erin provides women with the resources, services, and support to create the businesses — and lives — they want. Her flagship offering is BDC Mastermind®, a blend of coaching, consulting, and peer support that helps female business owners get unstuck, make solid business decisions, and step up to their greatness.


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 story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I spent 15 years selling and consulting in the real estate industry, but 10 years ago I decided to shift my focus to business consulting and executive coaching services. I wanted other female entrepreneurs like myself to have the tools and resources they needed so that they could succeed in their endeavors and career goals. That’s when I decided to start Black Dress Circle, which began as monthly peer-driven roundtables that offered support, guidance and insight specifically for women business owners. But my journey to entrepreneurship began long before that. You could say I’m a third-generation entrepreneur; my parents started and ran their own insurance business, and my grandmother started and ran her own business before them. Today, even my sister runs a business! Maybe it’s genetic, but I think it’s that we all share a similar drive to help others in whatever capacity we can.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

I am really proud of the way my company has handled the pandemic and the way we have been able to get our clients through the last year of constant flux and anxiety. In my case, we developed a whole new business model for Black Dress Circle. When the pandemic began, it was clear that in-person events were just no longer an option. I switched to offering virtual sessions, but as business owners were faced with so many new and unprecedented changes, it was hard for them to make time to attend these online workshops. I knew I had to rethink my whole business model, but also had to keep in mind what was best for these women who still needed my support. That’s when I began to offer open office hours for anyone, not just clients, where attendees could ask me anything they wanted to. It was important to offer this broader and more flexible approach, as so many lives were suddenly altered.

In addition to this, a trusted partner and I saw a need in our community for education and direction. Together, we began the St. Louis Small Business Task Force, aimed at tackling business challenges that our local companies faced due to the pandemic. We brought in other leaders around the community to brainstorm initiatives and solutions to widespread problems we faced. In the midst of developing this task force, the pivot I needed to take for my own business began to crystallize; BDC (Black Dress Circle) Mastermind.

With BDC Mastermind, I took previous elements of my business offerings and blended them into a universal program for female business owners at any point in their journey to get unstuck, make solid business decisions, and step up to the greatness I knew they were capable of. BDC Mastermind has a mix of coaching, consulting and peer support that I expect will be invaluable in helping these women navigate through challenges both now, and in the future. As I saw so many businesses struggling to face unprecedented challenges, it was important to me that I was doing everything I could to be a resource of knowledge and support, as well as adapting to fit the needs of my clients. With all this in mind, we’re also launching The Erin Joy App and a podcast, so business owners can access all sorts of helpful content right at their fingertips, whenever and wherever they want.

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 about that?

My parents. They opened an insurance agency in the dining room of our family home with three young kids. They hustled their way to the top, building not only that agency but also a real estate agency and a real estate portfolio. Some of the most valuable business lessons they taught me centered around work ethic, loyalty and being a good employer. Today, they’re cash-out entrepreneurs living the life of their dreams on a boat in Florida for half the year and their lake house in Illinois the other half. They’re still fiercely loyal to their friends and former clients — they still only buy furniture and flooring from some of their best friends who own a store in our hometown. I have many memories of dining at restaurants all over central Illinois and we’d drive an hour through the corn fields to dine at those restaurants because the owners were insurance clients of my parents. I carry those principles of work ethic, loyalty and being a good employer into my business and I share those lessons with my clients. I’m fiercely loyal too, and once you’re a client, we’re bonded for life.

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

It’s not so much of a quote, rather three words that I live by and have designed my entire business around; “Educate. Inspire. Empower.” These words guide my purpose and intention, not only within Black Dress Circle, but in my own life as well. While I’m always striving to provide value for my clients, I’m also applying these words to myself, and asking how I can be living and acting on them every day.

I’ve always continually educated myself throughout my life, because I think it’s so important to be constantly seeking out the unknown and using what we’ve learned to better ourselves. I’m currently pursuing my PhD in Business Psychology, which is an incredibly important area of study when it comes to what I want to achieve with my company, Black Dress Circle. Having this psychology-focused mindset can help us shape our approach to both life and business in positive and impactful ways. I want to be able to use insights to help women who need guidance in living balanced lives.

I think we all have the capability to inspire others, if we are passionate about what we are contributing to the world and are doing so in a way that impacts the lives of those around us for the better. In turn, looking for sources of inspiration of our own can help us feel excited and empowered, ready to take on challenges and come out of the other side stronger.

Lastly, “empower” goes both ways as well. In my business and in my life, I try to surround myself with empowering people; people who have a passion and a drive for what they do. In turn, I try to empower others, by helping people see their full potential and transforming it into results whether that looks like improving productivity, efficiency, profitability or even just satisfaction in their own lives.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

A blend of coaching, consulting, and peer support, my facilitated roundtable, BDC Mastermind®, has a proven track record of helping female business owners get unstuck, make solid business decisions, take action, step up to their greatness, and become more fulfilled. I help guide them, the power of my network helps them get things done, and the ability to crowdsource knowledge from other women business owners is invaluable.

It’s a winning combination that helps female business owners anticipate problems, navigate challenges, and cut through obstacles quickly and efficiently. Members gain insight into psychology-focused mindsets, learn to treat the cause, not the symptom, enjoy increased productivity, receive regular business education and strategic and tactical how-to’s, grow with intention, shortcut their learning and avoid expensive mistakes by crowdsourcing knowledge, learn how to reduce friction between work and home and get access to a network of resources to get things done. But probably one of the most rewarding aspects of what we offer is the chance for entrepreneurs to find their tribe — a network of people who can inspire and motivate them to reach their goals.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

BDC is known for our creativity, hustle and strategic thinking but even more for our focus on really walking alongside our clients and journeying with their company. For example, over the years I had multiple of these roundtables for women at different points in their business career; the “Emerge” group members were women earning less than 1 million dollars in annual revenue, at the start of their journey. The “Evolve” group was composed of women further along in running their business, making more than 1 million dollars in annual revenue. These circles would meet in-person to tackle unique business challenges, and we would come together as a group to collaborate and provide innovative solutions with our combined expertise. From the very beginning, we have offered resources that are vital to women entrepreneurs in all stages of their business growth.

In addition to these roundtable discussions, I also provided one-on-one consulting, where I could help these women identify issues and opportunities and really analyze their businesses, so we could collaborate and strategize a plan for them to meet their goals. I also had an ongoing series of videos, including my “Mindset Mondays” where I provided actionable tips and insights to both clients and my social media following, designed to inspire for a productive week. We also had events and workshops where we could come together in the spirit of continuous learning and effective networking, leveraging our peer and colleagues’ knowledge, and having fun too! All of my offerings were centered around the effort to help women develop habits and mindsets that empowered them to have not only a business that worked, but a life that worked too. After 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur myself, it’s important to me that I’m sharing my expertise and resources in a variety of creative ways.

When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?

Black Dress Circle began as monthly peer-driven roundtables that offered support, guidance and insight specifically for women business owners. I wanted other female entrepreneurs like myself to have the tools and resources they needed so that they could succeed in their endeavors and career goals. My main motivation has always been to help female entrepreneurs get unstuck. Black Dress Circle was an outgrowth of a real desire to help female business owners thrive. My mission was to help these women identify issues and opportunities and really analyze their businesses, so we can collaborate and strategize a plan for them to meet their goals.

What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?

Especially with all of the events of the past year, I have seen so many businesses struggling to face unprecedented challenges, it was important to me that I was doing everything I could to be a resource of knowledge and support, as well as adapting to fit the needs of my clients.

As the old saying goes, when one door closes another one opens. It might be a little cliché, but it rings true at a time like now, when all we can really do is either accept change, or let it conquer us.The recent changes from the pandemic caused us to pivot to a whole new way of doing business, which we call BDC Mastermind. Coming up with BDC Mastermind was, as many things are, a series of lessons in what did work and what didn’t. I had to accept that the business landscape was forever altered, so my business also needed to be altered to meet the demands of the current environment and the needs of my clients. I knew things couldn’t just be “business as usual”, with so many of us now operating from home. I needed to provide a program that still delivered results, while also accommodating my audience’s competing priorities and needs.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Although a lot of aspects of BDC Mastermind are still in development, The Erin Joy App and podcast are launching soon, and I can’t wait for clients to have access to all kinds of valuable content like mini-courses and fun challenges. Everything is in motion and it’s been so rewarding to see it all unfold.

Right now, my one-to-one coaching slots are almost completely full, so it excites me that business owners are still actively seeking out partnership — getting answers to their questions, advice about their issues and concerns, and addressing anything else that may be on their mind. I continue to share insight and information via videos and social media, and we’re still continuing to offer virtual events and workshops for members and those looking to connect.

Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

Word of mouth and referral business is the most powerful selling tool and it is how Black Dress Circle grows and continues to grow.

In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

Narrow your focus. When I first started my coaching and consulting company, I wanted to help all small-to-mid-sized business owners…but there were a million people trying to do that. As I progressed in my graduate studies, I identified a real gap in the marketplace for women business owners. Right away, I began to narrow my focus to service this population. When you are confident in the solution you are providing and the gap in the marketplace you are helping to bridge — and when you can clearly communicate that to a narrowed target audience — you attract the right clients.

Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

If we want to take care of others, we have to first take care of ourselves. Something I always make time for, no matter how busy my schedule gets, is my mental health and wellbeing. I think all too often we get caught up in our to-do lists, our work and our goals for our businesses, and we have this tendency to put everything else above ourselves. We worry about not letting anything slip through the cracks, and if something does, we put all the blame on ourselves for not working hard enough or being “good” enough. And I think that can be a real problem. Stress builds this way, and the pressure over time can be way too much for one person to handle. Especially now, when it seems like this entire past year has been synonymous with stress, we need to make sure we’re not putting our mental health on the back burner. It’s one thing to be constantly working; it’s another to be doing mindful work. My mantra for 2020 was “busy doesn’t equal productive.”

I am of firm belief that the universe is conspiring in your favor. I’ve always had an optimistic mindset, and this viewpoint has allowed me to let go of the things I can’t control and focus on the things I actually have authority over; like my wellbeing. No matter the external factors that threaten to disrupt my life (like a pandemic!), I try to make time for myself through simple actions like eating nourishing and nutritious foods that fuel my body, walking every day or getting physical exercise, and allowing myself time before bed to relax in preparation for a good night’s sleep. These little things may seem simple, but they can have a huge impact on your wellbeing! Everyone has different methods of self-care. Do what feels right for you and your customers will feel that clarity within yourself which will only make their experience better. Take care of yourself so you have the mental space for them.

Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Consulting Business”. Please share a story or an example for each.

This is a hard question to answer because I knew what I was getting into when I started this company. So I can’t think of anything I wish I knew. I knew it was going to be tough as hell. I knew I was going to work my tail off hustling to secure new clients and then service those clients — as a single mom in graduate school with a new business. I had 15 years of small business experience under my belt by the time I launched this company. Given all of my experiences, there are at least five things I’d tell others about starting their organization:

1. The growth of your company is correlated to your personal growth — the more you invest in yourself, your personal development, your well-being, the more space there is for your business to grow.

2. Taking a nap is good for business — it’s not just taking a nap, it’s all the things you do to take care of yourself, to express yourself, to feel good about yourself. Those activities are an investment in your business. Whatever it is you do to be well, you have to do those things. I always say that runners gotta run, artists gotta create their art, gardeners gotta garden. You can’t build a healthy business without a healthy entrepreneur. The entrepreneur IS the business.

3. Your network is your net worth — it’s a cute little phrase but it’s true. Research shows that entrepreneurs with big networks, and close ties with contacts within that network, fare much better than those without. It’s the access to resources that your network provides that makes all the difference. As an entrepreneur, you have to know who to go to to get things done in the blink of an eye.

4. Your vision must be crystal clear — not only does your vision need to be clear, you need it in your face all the time, every day. There’s no right scale or focus of your vision — it’s YOUR vision. Whatever it is, it needs to be so clear that you can see yourself, in your mind’s eye, achieving your goals and dreams. You want it to be so clear that when the vision unfolds you can say to yourself, “But of course, I’ve been expecting this all along.” Your vision is going to grow, shift, expand and that’s okay — whatever it is, just get it and keep it super clear.

5. Hire a business coach — it’s not just the business coach; it’s also the consultant, the attorney, the marketer. You need to surround yourself with the best resources who will come alongside you to build your business together. Your team is everything. And I do highly recommend a business coach as one of the people on your team. There’s no substitute for the accountability, support and expertise a great coach brings to the table.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. 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. 🙂

Therapy. Like I said above, your business growth is correlated to your personal growth. Therapy is a game changer. Most of us have baggage from childhood, relationships, horrible bosses and more. We may not even realize how that baggage is impacting our personal and professional lives but I see it all the time in the entrepreneurs I coach and consult. Mental health is something that we simply can’t afford to ignore, no matter how easy it feels to just let it slide.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

That’s easy — Sara Blakley, Founder & CEO at Spanx! I’m just so inspired by her for a variety of reasons including her super down to earth personal brand and of course her wildly successful company. Not only did she start her business from scratch in her home (like my parents did!) but she was able to build her company to billionaire status while retaining 100% ownership. Amazing!

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m all over social media! My instagram is @erinjoy.blackdresscircle. You can find me on Facebook at Erin Joy and Erin Joy: Black Dress Circle. I’m also on LinkedIn at Erin Joy!

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

Thank you so much for having me! I hope what I have shared can inspire someone.

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