Answer questions. I know sometimes it’s hard to balance work life and personal life but I find the best way to build a community of people that trust you is to be open to answering questions that are specific to their unique needs.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Perkins.
Melissa Perkins is the CEO and brand strategist at Sweet Daddy Designs, a branding and design studio based in Fort Worth, Texas. As a solopreneur, Melissa works with CEOs, business owners, and other entrepreneurs to establish their brand through strategic storytelling. When she isn’t stuck at a computer, Melissa enjoys finding the best taco spots around town.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Sure! I started my career and created my business, Sweet Daddy Designs, as soon as I graduated college in 2018. I graduated with a degree in advertising and looked for jobs at agencies for months, but didn’t find any that really connected with me and my vision, so I decided to create my own studio. It has been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
After I started my business, I realized how much I didn’t know or really understand about branding and storytelling. I spent a lot of time researching and learning what it meant to build a brand and create a strategic story that connected with people. While doing this research and sharing what I found, I realized that a lot of other people, business owners and designers alike, we’re really interested in how to do the same thing and learn right along side me. Thought leadership is truly being able to share your knowledge with others to pass it on.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
When I first went to college, the design program I attended was very rigorous and cut throat, only about 35% of the people that applied would be accepted. After one semester in the program, I found out that my work was “too creative” and they let me go. Fast forward to 2020, I now run a successful brand strategy and design studio and because of the experience I had in college, I specifically work with clients that are trying to break barriers in their industry by thinking and doing things differently.
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?
One of the funniest mistakes I made when I first started my business was not wanting to sell to people, how ironic when you own a business, haha. I found it really hard to talk to people about my business and tell them why they should work with me. I didn’t want to come off as a sleazy car salesman so I just didn’t do it. I let potential clients look at my work and let that do the talking. Now, as I’ve gotten more confident in my skills and have learned more about business, I try to share valuable knowledge with my audience instead of “selling” to them.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
Like I said before, a thought leader to me is a leader that can share their knowledge and drive change in other people’s lives on a specific topic. These types of leaders are different than a typical leader or influencer because their topics are specific to what they know and they are constantly creating new ways of thinking of the same topics or ideas.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
Knowledge is power and what you know helps you grow. When I started my career I didn’t have any plans on becoming a thought leader in my industry. I just wanted to share what I’ve learned with others but, while doing that, I’ve gained an audience that trusts me and my opinion. It’s worthwhile to invest into continuous learning and knowledge because it might show you a different path in life.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
When you share so much valuable knowledge with others, they start to trust your opinion and want more of it. This type of leadership, in whatever industry you’re in, can be lucrative because people want to learn more from you after they’ve gained value from their first encounter. Whether it is a 1:1 session, a webinar, or a speaking event, people love to learn how they can grow and scale to their next level.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
- Share your knowledge. The more you share the more your audience will trust you and your opinion.
- Build relationships. Don’t just share your knowledge and leave it at that, you should be building a relationship with your audience in order to build a community that can rely on you when they need help.
- Answer questions. I know sometimes it’s hard to balance work life and personal life but I find the best way to build a community of people that trust you is to be open to answering questions that are specific to their unique needs.
- Over deliver. I can not stress this enough, give people more than what they ask for, even if it’s small. Imagine how happy you would be if you only paid for 3 chocolates but received 5 — it’s the same feeling.
- Collaborate. If you can, collaborate with others to develop a space where each of your audiences can come together to get the best of both worlds and learn from multiple people.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
Chris Do of The Futur is a great example of a thought leader, he has created a space where he shares his knowledge with others and has developed a community where people can learn from him, his collaborators, and others in the community.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
Being a “thought leader” is just a label, that I’m sure will change in 10 years. However, the core essence of it will stay the same, whether its called thought leader, guru, influencer, or celebrity, at the end of the day you’re sharing your knowledge and building community.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Share your truth but know when and how to take breaks. It’s okay not to be in the spot light all of the time if that’s not for you.
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. 🙂
I would love to start a movement of rebellious creativity. Where no one is afraid to go after their dreams or ideas. No idea is too crazy or too wild — especially when you have me as a cheerleader. 🙂
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If nobody ever rebelled, nothing would ever change.” — Angelina Jolie
I love this quote because it’s so true. In history, in art, in politics, in everything, there was only a change because someone made up their mind to make it happen. That type of determination drives me to do better.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Definitely Kris Jenner. She’s a marketing icon and genius, I would love to pick her brain over lunch.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me on my website at www.sweetdaddydesigns.com or on Instagram and Facebook @sweetdaddydesigns.
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.