We are creating a movement of more vulnerability and connectivity in the lives of women. I want to smash the idea of perfection. I want people to be more open about their struggles. To breathe more deeply into the now. I want people to realize we are NOT as divided as the world makes us out to be. We all share the same emotions. We’ve all experienced happiness, heartbreak, loss, success. We aren’t so different you and I.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Rector the founder of Harness Magazine. Ashley has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and received her Juris Doctorate in 2015. In her free time she loves to travel, write and explore the coffee shops in her city. Most recently, she has ventured into small business and passion coaching. She absolutely loves helping businesses come to life.
At a very young age I was taught to be strong and independent. Unafraid to color outside the lines and to be proud of who I was. I was fortunate to come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandfather started his own auto shop which was passed down generation to generation — still in existence today and run by my uncles. My father launched his own company at the ripe age of 29 when I was just a year old; and grew it into a multi-million dollar business which still employs over 80 people in Cleveland, OH today. It was always in my blood. So in some ways I feel like I was destined to run my own business. I watched and absorbed the years of learning and growing a business to later use in my own company!
A little over two years ago, I felt disconnected from the media. I didn’t resonate with traditional magazines. I was hearing all of these stories from the women in my life — some on heartbreak, others on becoming a mother, struggles at work, friendship changes, — none of it was being represented in the media. It was almost as if these real stories were too deep — too personal. But that’s what I needed — I needed a real connection to the female community. So I decided to create a space that would allow women to share their story. You didn’t have to be an expert writer or poet. You just had to be passionate about connecting your story to other women. With that passion Harness was born and we’ve been evolving ever since.
Social media marketing was integral in launching Harness Magazine and making sure we had content everyday moving forward. I used it as a catalyst to launch and grow the brand which now has over 16,500 followers on instagram — some of which are international. Simply put, I’ve been in the social media trenches and learned what’s worked. Bonus, we actually have the numbers to prove it. Social media is KEY to growing our brand and finding readers so we spend an exponential amount of time on it. I don’t think a day goes by where I am not learning new and improved ways to connect with our audience through social. It is a beast of its own, but I am grateful to have it as a resource!
One of the most interesting and surreal moments happened recently. I met a woman for coffee to talk about business. I often meet women in the community to network and just help in any way I can. When we met in person, I realized she had spoken at one of my law school years ago. She was one of the success stories, they wanted us to be outgoing and successful like her. I remember wanting at the time to mirror her success. Now years later, she was meeting me for coffee and asking me for advice on her own business. Wanting to learn more about how I launched Harness and how it grew so fast. It was an amazing feeling and I was immensely grateful for it.
Oh there have been so many interesting things that have happened. I think a funny learning moment was visiting our printer for the first time. My husband and I drove two hours to tour the printing facility and see how magazines are made. We also needed to pick up 1,000 magazines from the Issue II run. In my mind, I didn’t think 1,000 magazines would be too many boxes or weigh too much. To my surprise, the printer used a forklift to carry all of the boxes to our U-haul. My husband and I had a look of horror. Once we got home, we spent two hours taking boxes one by one upstairs into our home office. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Our home office was now a packing and distribution room. I learned to work out storage and/or ship directly from the printer going forward. I also learned that for better or worse I have a box mover for life in my husband.
Instagram has been the most effective in increasing revenues. We launch magazines quarterly and we always promote the launch through our social channels. We can actively see the click through rate for preordering the magazine. Additionally, when we ask users to tag us on instagram with their purchases — we see an uptick on the website in sales.
Here are six ways you can leverage instagram to dramatically improve your business.
1. Look at instagram as a sales tool. Every post should be serving a purpose. Before you publish a post on instagram, ask yourself what is this post doing for my business? Is it driving traffic to my blog, is it driving traffic to a specific product, are we asking our users to do something? When you start thinking about the outcome of your posts — it’s a game changer.
2. Start interacting with your audience. Instagram is a community and that is what you are building. This community is supporting your brand and your products. They are looking to you as an expert or resource in your field. As a business who is fostering a community, you need to interact with that community. You need to be engaged in the comments on your posts, you need to follow your active users — take interest in their world. This will also be so useful in learning who your customer demographic is!
3. Start branching out by using hashtags. Instagram is a great way to find new customers and new members to your community. Look at hashtags that are relevant to your brand or service. Engage with individuals who post in those hashtags. Make sure you are using hashtags on your posts! You should spend a few minutes every day reaching out to new users.
4. Ask your community to spread the word. So many brands are afraid to ask their audience to tag friends that may find their brand useful. We are human beings and your audience likely knows others who will like your brand. You can do this by simply asking or running a giveaway. It is a great way to find new customers and individuals trust brand recommendations by people in their lives!
5. Social Collaborations. Start looking for brands that match your mission and do social collaborations. It’s a great way for you to be introduced to their audience and vice versa. This could be an instagram story or IGTV takeover, you could partner on a giveaway, they could do a guest blog post and so much more!
6. Make sure your products or service is easy to find. We use linktree to link multiple links in our instagram bio. If we are selling or pushing more than one service, make sure it is linked an easily accessible to your audience.
I like to think Harness is creating a movement of more vulnerability and connectivity in the lives of women. I want to smash the idea of perfection. I want people to be more open about their struggles. To breathe more deeply into the now. I want people to realize we are NOT as divided as the world makes us out to be. We all share the same emotions. We’ve all experienced happiness, heartbreak, loss, success. We aren’t so different you and I.
I would love to talk with Stephanie Cohen, the Chief Strategy Officer at Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs announced its mission to put 500 million towards female founded companies and I would LOVE to take Harness to the next level and be a part of the Launch with GS initiative. My dream is to make Harness a household name and we are well on our way. VC funding is on our list for 2019–2020!