By Pauleanna Reid, Senior Contributor
Ask Jesseca Dupart, founder and CEO of Kaleidoscope Hair Products, where new businesses are falling behind and she will tell you social media. A survey by Clutch found that small businesses allocate less than 20% of their budget to digital marketing and only 53% use social media. Dupart, who has a connected online following of more than a million people, understands the importance of making connections. She says, “Social media shouldn't be taken for granted, some see it as something to use between friends, but it's a free tool that can elevate your business too.”
Born and raised in New Orleans, during 2013 Dupart invested her savings in starting-up Kaleidoscope Hair Studio; a move that may have seemed risky for a single mother but she had faith in her vision, later expanding her business into Kaleidoscope Hair Products, real estate management, public speaking, mentorship and philanthropy. She says, “I risk it all when the ideas come to me because I believe in what I am trying to create. I am not scared to have zero dollars in my bank account because I have been there before. When you trust in your ability and vision, you are not as scared to take chances.”
In a recent interview with Dupart, she shared five tips to help millennial women boldly own their uniqueness, step into their power and drastically improve their digital footprint.
Dupart cautions brands from copying what their competition is doing. She advises, “Focus on the things that are unique to you. Make the best use of that space by showcasing what makes you different.” For Dupart, growing up she didn’t see many CEOs who looked like her. The opportunity inspired her to break the rules and expectations and is the reason why she promotes diversity and encourages her followers to embrace the things that make them special. “Don’t be afraid to stand out,” Dupart adds. “What you create on social media is only as limited as your imagination.”
“The one piece of advice I constantly tell people is not to compare their brand to others," she declares. It's easy to get discouraged if you don't see immediate results and you're not pulling in a large number of likes, comments and shares or have a following of 100,000. “Keep in mind the same influencers you admire started off just like you," Dupart advises and encourages all startups to be consistent and get creative. Run your race at your own pace and don't compare your beginning stages to an established brand that has been operating for a while. The businesses that succeed are the ones that understand there is no such thing as an overnight success.
“Some people are making movies on Instagram; they edit and shoot like it's a Hollywood production. As a content creator, you may not have a Hollywood budget but the least you can do is have a clean lens and clear audio. Details matter,” she describes. Content creation shows your followers that you take your business and their time seriously. In addition to creating great content, pay attention to the type of content your audience responds to. Dupart advises, “Once you understand your audience and their needs, you can convert them into loyal customers."
Dupart encourages you to identify the core values of your brand. She says, “I have always felt satisfaction from giving and it is a large part of who I am. So it makes sense that it’s also a priority within my business; I love helping others succeed.” And her audience has witnessed her generosity from producing community events like donating bikes to children in need, to sharing her experience through mentorship and speaking tours, and the recording breaking Christmas toy giveaway. Knowing your brand values will help craft consistent messaging that resonates with your followers resulting in organic growth and engagement. Dupart often provides opportunity for her audience to be featured on her social platforms. It speaks to her ability to promote and support other growing brands. “That’s why I love social media, it doesn’t matter what connections you have or don’t have. What really matters is how much you hustle,” Dupart says. She suggests curating the community that reflects the vision of your business. Your followers are not just followers; they are the living embodiment of your brand.
Creating a brand on social media can be unnerving and many are afraid to put themselves out there, but the one thing Dupart wishes people would realize is that their impact is bigger than their fear. "Your biggest critic is you. Somebody out there is in need of your story so it can push them to have their own success," states Dupart. She wants entrepreneurs and influencers to remember that they are inspirations too; just by trying they are encouraging someone else to take a chance. Dupart is releasing her debut book this Spring and hopes it will motivate more entrepreneurs and influencers to keep chasing their vision. “When I see new brands building their following on social media, I get excited. These are people who are taking a chance and pushing themselves further. They are pushing me to be better at the same time. That’s the thing about social media, your impact, and your reach is completely limitless."
By Sandra Lewis
It is Monday morning. In a Denver office, the phone rings – a client is calling from Osaka. The phone is answered promptly and courteously by a virtual assistant working from her home in Manchester, England. Not a faceless call center employee, but a dedicated team member, who just happens to be half a world away.
Small businesses like this one are busting down the walls and going global in sales and in their workforce. Smart businesses of all sizes are finding and hiring the exact skillset they need for a project, for ongoing work, or even a few hours without having to worry about overhead, payroll taxes, benefits or future layoffs. And they have good company. This year Elance, the world’s largest online platform for freelance work, topped $500 million in online work.
Three trends are aligning that put this global talent within reach of even the smallest entrepreneurial startup: 1) an increase of skilled talent looking to work from home; 2) exponential growth in online communication, especially via tools that allow you to message and video chat with remote employees as though they are next door and; 3) the acceptance of viewing the world as a global marketplace.
For a virtual assistant like Janie, who works from her home in Pennsylvania, her day begins with checking email messages from her clients. Like many virtual assistants, Janie learned her skills in a traditional role as an executive assistant for a large corporation. She decided to start her own freelance business, allowing her flexibility in her schedule and releasing her from the grind of the daily commute. My point is this -- Janie and many thousands like her offer virtual support in a wide variety of fields with the same professionalism you would expect from any highly-skilled traditional employee. The difference is that she is willing to offer her services to clients in affordable chunks of a few hours at a time. She wants your business, and she’ll work hard and smart, in order to retain it.
Many of us need help
As an entrepreneurial startup or small business, there is a tendency to want to reduce costs by trying to do everything yourself. But some tasks beg to be done by a virtual assistant -- blog writing, SEO, handling orders, and customer support, to name a few.
Then there are specialized tasks where you need expertise that you don’t have yourself – accounting, language skills, web design, PR, etc. Hiring a PR firm can quickly blow the budget. Yet, at the same time you can’t afford to hire in-house. This is where virtual support excels. It’s “a la carte” and scalable. You can hire a freelance with the skills you need on a regular basis, for a few hours at a time, without committing to a full time employee. You can increase or decrease the hours you use as workload fluctuates.
Misconceptions of outsourcing
The concept of outsourcing has become synonymous with heavy accents and jobs going overseas, but it doesn’t necessarily mean hiring at pennies on the dollar in a third world country. You can hire skilled virtual support within your own country, your own state or even your own town – the key is that you are accessing a pool of skilled professionals who choose to work from home.
Because of the availability of effective productivity and communication applications, today there is really not much difference between getting up from your desk to speak to your assistant next door, and getting on Skype to speak to them, collaborate and share files. A virtual employee can still be an integral part of your team.
Taking the plunge
OK, you say, how can I access this virtual talent -- or how can I be this virtual talent?
Online platforms like Elance, ODesk, Guru and many more provide a marketplace for freelance providers and those who need them, to find each other, work together, and pay securely. For those who want to simplify the search process, choose a virtual professional services company with an established team. They can get you up and running almost instantly, at competitive rates, and without a long-term commitment. Look for companies that can assign you one assistant to work with on an ongoing basis, and support you with additional skillsets as needed.
It is no longer necessary to wait until you have grown your business enough to hire “real employees.” By tapping into the global talent pool of virtual professional services, you can play with the big guys with no commitment, little risk and very little to lose.
By Brian Friedman, VP of Digital Innovation at Aventri and former Founder and CEO of LOOPD, focused on design, product and growth | Jan 30, 2019, 08:30am
I have yet to meet a startup with a linear path from inception to exit. The vast majority travel a circuitous path of upsides, challenges and dead ends. That said, every journey is unique.
The factors shaping the journey range from the concept and the team to the products and the marketplace. External macroeconomic issues like inflation, stock market conditions, politics (national and global) and unemployment levels play more than a small role as well. Then, despite the best planning and most favorable conditions, successful navigation is sometimes the simple byproduct of good luck.
Having launched in Silicon Valley, my co-founders and I faced the gritty realities of expensive office rental rates, high cost of living, inflated employee salaries, cutthroat competition for talent against established companies, unpredictable investment scenarios and even local politics — just to name a few.
While some of these challenges were unique to our location, all new companies will encounter hurdles and competition. Every day, especially during the pivotal first few months, will surprise you and test your soul, spirit and sanity. The only reliable prediction is that you will be confronted with the unpredictable. The unpredictable for us arrived in the form of a fight against City Hall.
My co-founders and I left the Hero City co-working space in San Mateo and set off for “the City” (as San Francisco was known locally). We could never have anticipated the lack of clean, functional and affordable office space. As a small startup, Loopd was big on ideas but limited on resources as we waited to finalize fundraising.
At last, we found a large, second-floor suite in one of the last faux Victorians in the up-and-coming South of Market (SoMa) area in San Francisco. In 2014, this neighborhood was a study in contrasts: rundown affordable apartment buildings and auto-repair shops next to new, multimillion-dollar condos and office suites. For Loopd, having an office was a safeguard for our ideas and a substrate to build our company on. Having an office in the right location was critical for growth and success. It was the perfect situation — until we faced eviction.
Soon after we settled in, our landlord received a zoning violation notice with a hefty daily fine from the San Francisco Planning Department. A pro-housing neighborhood watch group had reported us after we started working in the faux Victorian. Although the house was zoned residential, this zoning had often been ignored in the past, but not for software companies.
We knew this was a potential risk from the outset, but enforcement seemed remote and unlikely. Why would they target a nascent company of unobtrusive engineers? We decided to fight. With the cooperation of our landlord, we appealed the notice and had a hearing before an administrative judge. He was fair and expressed his support of the startup economy, but he said that the law favored the neighborhood watch group. While he did not deny our petition, he did advise us to find a new space and gave us an additional 30 days to do so.
The takeaway from this office space saga is that unexpected situations are the norm. Sure, we could have left San Francisco at any time for a less expensive, more accommodating city, but we would have lost more than we gained. We did open an office in Taiwan in order to hire programmers and minimize our San Francisco-based team, but there were certain elements of SoMa that made it appealing, including easy access to investors and hardware engineering talent.
As you scale up your own startup and seek out office space, consider these tips to mitigate the challenges:
Take advantage of the right co-working spaces.
As a result of the expanding startup economy, the co-working market has become very diverse over the past few years. You can now find different functional spaces for your team and even find layouts that are designed for engineering and sales teams. WeWork, Knotel, Spacious and Croissant all provide freedom and flexibility when it comes to finding a safe and high-quality work environment.
Consider establishing your office in a secondary city.
You don’t always have to be located right in the middle of the action. While an office in a major hub like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco may help your startup in terms of fundraising, partnerships and business development, it’s not always the most strategic decision. You can reduce your burn rate, grow your inside sales and marketing team and scale a remote engineering team by looking at cities such as Salt Lake City and Kansas City.
Complete your due diligence.
Before you move into a new office, make sure to ask the landlord and your real estate agent all of the pertinent questions around the zoning of the office space. You should receive physical confirmation that shows that the space allows software and/or manufacturing companies. You may trust your real estate agent, but it’s still your responsibility to minimize your risk by receiving legal approval that you can leverage in the future.
Always be ready to adapt.
Most importantly, remain optimistic and flexible when looking to move into a new office. You can’t always predict what will happen with an office space. The landlord could decide to raise your rent, your team could outgrow the office or your team could decide one day that they don't like working in the office. You should be aware of potential changes that would affect your office space and team culture. Always have a plan B ready to go in case you face a dilemma like I did with my startup.
As you launch and build a company, expect the unexpected. Whatever your nemesis, whether office space scarcity, product hiccups, employee behavior or local politics, choose optimism and flexibility. Persist despite the hardships and remain open to the lucky opportunities that can come as a byproduct of the challenges.
Wednesday, February 6, 2019 | 6-8PM| Pioneer Office Suites
The Small Business Network of Montgomery County is hosting a networking event to bring together local professionals. The keynote discussion, "Supercharge Your Sales Performance in 2019" with Ken Smith, Principal of Sandler Sales Institute, will teach participants how to identify blind spots preventing stronger sales and business development results. Ken’s presentation will provide insights to the hidden obstacles that can prevent you from achieving greater results in today’s sales environments, and what you must do to shatter those obstacles. Register today here.
McLean Business Forum (Mclean, VA)
Thursday, February 7, 2019 | 7:15-9AM | Courtyard by Marriott
This week, hear from Sep Harandi of Pink Blinds and Shutters. The McLean Business Forum meets in the 2nd floor cafe at the Courtyard by Marriott. While the meeting ends at 9 AM, be prepared to stick around and network with someone you'd like to get to know better! Bring a stack of business cards and be prepared to talk about your business.
NeXco National February Business Social with LinkedIn Local
Meet other local professionals and set your year up for success at this event with LinkedIn Local! Appetizers will be provided. Hear from Herman Raybon Jr., a former U.S. Marine Drill Instructor and the former Director of Marine Corps Enlisted Professional Military Education. His seminar, "Kicking Down The Door To A Successful 2019," will provide proven steps to advancing your position in life and breaking out of your "grid square," allowing you to achieve your 2019 goals. Herman is a solutions-driven professional who has advised at all levels of management on matters relating to human capital development, leadership, communication, professional development, administrative actions, policy and program analysis, travel, mentoring, morale, welfare, training, and employee relations. He has developed and managed multiple leadership and educational programs.
Register in advance here--it's required!
Whether you're new to the area or a long-time veteran to Downtown Bethesda, we encourage you to venture out for a meal in one of Bethesda's wonderful dining options. Here are just five eateries to choose from.
Craveable, customizable Mediterranean salads, grain bowls, and pitas that fill and fulfill. Stop by to savor CAVA’s flavor-packed dips, satisfying protein options, unlimited toppings, and house-made juices and teas.
Started by three local childhood friends, CAVA celebrates its founders’ Greek
roots and family recipes in a casual, modern setting. This original location of the fast-casual restaurant chain opened in 2010. Today, you can find CAVA from Boston to New York to North Carolina on the East Coast, all the way to Texas and California on the West Coast.
Explore the menu at cava.com/menu.
10:45am - 10:00pm
The best New York-style handmade bagels and deli sandwiches with an extensive catering menu. Family owned and operated for over 25 years!
Monday - Saturday
6:30am - 5:00pm
7:00am - 3:00pm
Tandoori Nights is an upscale contemporary restaurant and serves authentic Indian cuisine in a modern setting. We emphasize on healthy quality food using less oil and all-natural ingredients to create a harmony of subtle flavors and taste.
Monday - Friday
11:30am - 2:30pm
12:00pm - 4:00pm
12:00pm - 4:00pm
Mon Ami Gabi
A bustling French bistro and steakhouse in the heart of Bethesda Row, Mon Ami Gabi offers a weekend brunch, live Jazz Tuesday and Thursday, and happy hour Monday through Friday from 3:00 – 6:30pm in the bar! For more information on special events including cooking classes and wine dinners, visit our website.
Live Jazz Shows on Tuesdays, 6:00pm – 9:00pm & Thursdays, 6:30pm–9:30pm.
Monday - Thursday
11:30am - 10:00pm
Friday - Saturday
11:30am - 11:00pm
10:00am - 10:00pm
Fast food can be good food. That idea led to the creation of Modern Market in Boulder, Colo. in 2009. It took two people with zero restaurant experience to figure out that you could serve healthy, scratch-made fare for reasonable prices in a beautiful environment. Breakfast, lunch and dinner rule the day at Modern Market with a broad menu of farm-to-table food that tastes even better than it looks. The company aims to bring healthy, sustainable dining to the masses.
Dear IO Bethesda members,
Thank you for being a valued member of Intelligent Office Bethesda. We have such a wonderful, diverse selection of members at our Bethesda offices. Therefore we are launching a monthly happy hour, to get together, enjoy a glass of wine and network! This monthly happy hour can help our members grow as a team and if nothing else just an invitation to know your neighbors a little better. Networking with other professionals in your area will give you an extra boost of motivation and inspiration. Check your email for updates on the dates for these events every month.