Tag: The Voice of Social media

How These Small Businesses are Growing Their Impact

🖊️
Small Business, Big Lessons is a podcast from Buffer that goes behind the scenes with inspirational small businesses to explore how they are questioning the best ways to build a business and uncover the big lessons we can learn from their journeys (so far). Check out the fifth episode here.

How These Small Businesses are Growing Their Impact

Some businesses may be small – but they’re also mighty. Many small teams are capable of making great strides in their respective fields, while also contributing to their communities and deserving causes. Creating an impact is not necessarily about how much money you’re able to donate – or how many resources you have – but the purpose and intent behind your actions.

In Season 2, episode 5 of our podcast, Small Business, Big Lessons, we detail how three small businesses – Made with Local, Sparktoro, and Rize Up Bakery – are making a difference. In this companion blog post, we cover how, through deliberate initiatives they’ve baked into their company policies, they’re making a huge impact and supporting marginalized communities and sustainability along the way.

Business growth and impact are not mutually exclusive

According to Holly Howard, a business coach, and consultant, business owners don’t have to choose between making a positive impact and growing their business financially.. Holly works with many entrepreneurs and often finds they see a dichotomy between doing good with their work and doing well in their business.

“People will sometimes say, ‘well, I can either make a lot of money or I can make a really good impact.’ And I say, ‘well, the first problem that we have is that divided mindset that those two things can't coexist together.’ And so if our mindset is divided, that it has to be one or the other, then the results of our impact are certainly going to be divided,” she said.

Rand Fishkin, co-founder of audience research tool Sparktoro, also believes that entrepreneurs do need to grow their businesses in order to bring about change. But to Rand, this growth doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary success. A company can grow in many other ways as well. Rand uses the example of a popular, but small, Japanese sushi restaurant. Although they’re a small business with limited resources, they’ve managed to have a huge influence in the culinary world.

“[The growth] came from the attention and awareness,” Rand said. “The message resonating, the media coverage, the amplification that [the sushi restaurant] received, the following that they have. And those are beautiful ways to build the impact of a business, too.”

For Sparktoro, Rand even considers his free users who never become paid members as positively contributing to the company's growth as they help bring awareness around Sparktoro’s mission – to make audience research accessible to everyone.

Still, sometimes doing good can slow the growth process a bit. Sheena Russel of Made with Local – a B corporation that creates granola products – has social impact baked into their mission. This means, every step of the way, Sheena ensured that Made with Local was working with local farmers and food producers, which slowed the pace of their operations.

How These Small Businesses are Growing Their Impact
a Made with Local granola bar 

“I'd be lying if I said, you know, there weren't — I'm going to use air quotes here — negative impacts on the speed of our growth of our business…,” Sheena said. “That would be something I think in a conventional business space where people would see that as a potential negative, right? But it was a deliberate choice on our behalf.”

But even then, Made with Local grew, they just took the “scenic route,” as Sheena says. Their story is proof that businesses can stick to their morals, make a social impact, and still thrive.

These Small Businesses are growing their impact by uplifting their communities

The impact a business makes can manifest in various ways, and for these entrepreneurs, a huge purpose behind their small businesses is to positively impact their surrounding communities.

Made with Local operates with a three-pillar impact system

Every business decision Sheena and the Made with Local team makes, is based on their three-pillar impact system. Which consists of the following:

  1. A local, ethical, and transparent supply chain – The small business works with their local community to source everything for their granola, including their ingredients and packaging.
  2. Social impact manufacturing model – Made with Local partners with two social enterprise bakeries in Nova Scotia, who train and employ adults with barriers to the mainstream workforce. Not only do these individuals make all of Made with Local’s food, but they assist with the distribution as well.
  3. Community connection – Made with Local started out as a stall at a community farmers market. So it’s no surprise that maintaining community connection has been a main focus for Sheena. They are involved with community urban farms and mutual aid fridge projects and donate and volunteer with organizations fighting food insecurity in Nova Scotia.

Abiding by these guidelines is a must for Sheena as she’s very deliberate about using her small business as a vehicle for a positive impact in her community.

“For us, social enterprise means incorporating the concept of creating social impact into every business decision that we make…,” Sheena said. “Really knowing that we can take a business and use it as a force for good in the world.”

Sparktoro donated $25,000 to charity when they launched

When Rand was getting ready to launch Sparktoro in the spring of 2020, it coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. People were scared, isolated, and job security and financial concerns were creeping in for many. Rand and his team knew that they wouldn’t feel good about launching their company unless they addressed the current events happening.

“We felt that launching a software product for marketers at the height of the pandemic — it just didn't feel like a cause that you could be 100 percent behind,” Rand said. “I mean, we were excited about it. We've been working on it for 18 months before that… but also, we wanted to do something that spoke to the broader ecosystem that we were in.”

How These Small Businesses are Growing Their Impact
Sparktoro's VP of Marketing Amanda Natividad (L) with co-founder Rand Fishkin (R)

So, Sparktoro decided to partner with GiveDirectly, an organization that allows people to directly donate to individuals in poverty. For every person that simply tried Sparktoro for free during their launch, the small business donated GiveDirectly. At the time, the charity was fundraising money for Americans struggling in the wake of Covid-19. Sparktoro ended up donating a huge amount.

“We ended up doing about $25,000 — a little bit scary for an early stage company to be giving away a hefty chunk of its investment,” Rand said. “But I think I think it was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Rize Up Bakery hopes to work with at-risk youth

At Rize Up Bakery, founder Z is also hoping to make an impact through his work. Z opened up his San Francisco bakery in part because of the protests of George Flyoy’s murder in 2020, so representation has always been important to him. Specifically, he wants to help the at-risk youth in his community, as he was one himself.

As a Black baker, Z believes he can help kids and teens realize that there are a world of options for them, even career paths they’ve never heard of.

“Before I started doing this, I had realized I'd never even met a black Baker. Never seen a black Baker… it definitely doesn't have very much representation,” Z said.

Since Rize Up is still in its development phase, Z currently doesn’t have the bandwidth to launch a program just yet. But it’s something that he hopes to do soon, and he’s currently considering what schools and organizations he can work within the Bay Area to make this happen.

“The concepts of inspiring and working with youth and helping people find love the same way that I have in [baking], I feel would be something really worth spending time doing,” he said. “So I'm going to be working towards that in the future.”

Growing impact by supporting employees and suppliers

A small business's employees and suppliers are an integral part of the company. Here’s how these entrepreneurs ensure they’re prioritizing these very relationships.

Made with Local ensures their partnerships align

When considering which suppliers to work with, Sheena has a unique approach. Her small business sends a questionnaire to each and every potential partner to verify their values align with Made with Local’s missions.

“We have a series of questions that we asked [our suppliers] about their environmental impact, and also their social impact. And those are things that clearly loop back into the values piece for us,” she said. “But we want to see specific examples of how they are prioritizing positive impact and the social and environmental space.”

In this way, Sheena supports other businesses that are doing good. This positively contributes to Made with Local’s overall impact as Sheena is uplifting and supporting other small businesses that put their community first, champion the environment, and are striving to be as sustainable as possible.

Rize Up Bakery raises team members’ salaries frequently

Z is very passionate about cultivating a positive and supportive environment for his employees. When he onboards a new employee, he does his best to show them the ropes and teach them techniques to make the best sourdough bread – their signature item.

Employees at Rize Up start at $18 an hour – impressive considering California’s minimum wage for businesses that have fewer than 25 employees starts at $14. After two months, Rize Up team members are then eligible for a $2 raise. Z is also open to giving his staff multiple raises in a year if he sees improvement. His head assistant baker has been with him for just over a year and has already had her salary increased thrice.

“[My head assistant baker] just keeps getting better and better,” Z says. “And she handles more and more responsibility. If you keep learning and keep working and keep wanting more responsibility, and I can count on you more than that means you are earning your keep.”

Taking care of his employees connects Z back to his broader mission – making a positive impact on his community. For the entrepreneur, his bottom line is not how much he can make, but how much he can contribute to the bakery and its employees.

“And the way I think about it is, well, how much can I invest? Right? Because I want people to walk away with the skill set. I would love to have people learn from me,” Z said. “And then when they go off and do their famous amazing things. They know that the person that taught them cared about them.”

Small Businesses can be a vehicle for greater social impact

One of Rand’s goals is that everyone who comes across Sparktoro, from customers to suppliers, takes away something positive from his small business. For one, the entrepreneur wants to make audience research accessible to all individuals – something that has typically only been available to larger corporations.

But on a smaller scale, Rand also strives to empower and support the individuals who’re contributing to his company. While Sparktoro’s core team consists of three employees, there are dozens of contractors and other organizations the software company works with, and Rand hopes they’re all benefiting from their involvement with Sparktoro.

“We have a ton of people in our orbit and ecosystem who’re small and medium businesses. I hope we're helping by being great partners and customers of theirs,” he said.

Businesses like Sparktoro, Made with Local, and Rize Up Bakery are why Holly got into consulting in the first place, as she loves to help entrepreneurs make a difference. She’s optimistic about the future of small businesses, as she’s seeing more and more organizations wanting to do good.

“So in the 10 years that I've been consulting, I've definitely seen [ the B corp certification] become a priority. And that people want to create good jobs. And that's something that really inspires me… I really felt like businesses can be a real force for good.”

Want more on making an impact? Check out the full episode

The businesses we interviewed in this episode have further insights to share about making an impact and its value for brands. Check out the full episode here.

https://buffer.com/resources/how-small-businesses-are-growing-their-impact/

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer – Our New Transparency Dashboard

🖊️
We created this new dashboard during Build Week, where the entirety of Buffer came together in small teams to spend a week focusing on building and shipping new features. Read more about Build Week here.

This specific project was meant to help our team members prioritize their mental health by providing a deep dive into how we utilize our vacation time as a company.

Amy Lee Bennett, Carlos Muñoz, and Juliana Gomez also contributed to this blog post.

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer - Our New Transparency Dashboard

Transparency is one of our core values at Buffer. We've found that it builds trust, holds us accountable, and can push our industry forward, and one of the ways we embrace this value is by publishing public dashboards to share things like our salaries and revenue.

We're excited to add a new transparent dashboard to share our time off stats here. We hope this will contribute to conversations around healthy workplaces and how employers can better support their employees’ mental health and well-being through four-day work weeks and various types of personal leave.

Our teammates need planned time away from work to stay healthy. Many studies have shown that time away from work improves mental and physical health, prevents burnout, and promotes a better work-life balance. But according to Expedia’s 2022 Vacation Deprivation report, 61 percent of American workers feel that their vacations don’t feel like “true vacations” and unplugging from work is steadily becoming more challenging. A whopping 71 percent of workers are feeling more burned out than ever.

Why an unlimited vacation policy, isn’t always the best policy

Initially, we believed an unlimited vacation policy would be the solution and we felt it aligned with our intention to offer generous compensation and benefits. And who wouldn’t love unlimited time off from work, right? Ironically, fewer team members took time off, and it wasn’t just the case at Buffer: studies have shown that unlimited vacation policies can actually hinder employees from taking time off work. So we went back to the drawing board and decided to go in an entirely different direction: encouraging all teammates to take a minimum of three weeks off per year (15 days), in addition to national holidays.

So far, this feels like a good balance for our team. We can still provide parameters around minimum vacation time (which mitigates any awkwardness or qualms about taking time off under unlimited vacation policies) whilst facilitating other flexible paid time off options. Some of these include:

  • Asking all new parents to take 16 weeks off for family leave and any additional time needed for birthing parents.
  • A six-week paid sabbatical for every team member after five years, which teammates can use however they’d like. We’ve seen team members travel the world, focus on side projects, and spend quality time with family.
  • Volunteer leave to empower team members to take time off work to make an impact on initiatives they feel called to support.
  • A Local Election Day, so teammates can take time off to vote and participate in any election activities, such as working at polls.
  • A Wellness day for teammates to receive preventative care, such as dental cleanings, and physical and vision exams.

Why we’re transparently sharing how Buffer teammates take time off

We know that one of the most significant benefits of a fully remote team is our teammates' flexibility and autonomy in organizing their work and schedule. We don't quite want to erode that autonomy by enforcing time away, but we do want to ensure that teammates are taking adequate time off and getting the rest they deserve.

This was the driving force behind us building this dashboard: to evaluate trends and habits related to how teammates take time off and make certain that teammates are taking advantage of our time-off policy to optimize their health and happiness. Below is a quick preview, you can check our full live dashboard here.

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer - Our New Transparency Dashboard
A graph tracking our team's vacation statistics 

In addition to building out our transparent time off dashboard, we learned that our team has taken a total of 1151 vacation days in 2022 so far, meaning we're averaging about 13.71 days off per teammate. So we should be on track to meet our goal of an average of at least 15 vacation days per teammate by the end of 2022. Additionally, we did a drill-down by team and found that our Engineering team seems to be trailing other teams with how much vacation time they've taken:

Product: Average 16 days

Marketing: Average 15.6 days

Advocacy: Average 15.2 days

Finance: Average 15 days

Executive: Average 14.5 days

People: Average 13.7 days

Engineering: Average 11.8 days

Spotting these trends helps us focus our efforts to ensure teammates feel empowered to take a vacation and explore if there are any barriers to booking that time.

Finding the right balance

To fully disconnect from work and experience the health benefits of a vacation, we’d hope to see team members take advantage of the policy and book at least one whole week off annually. For now, 15 days feels like a solid sweet spot, as we’ve seen reports (both through external research and anecdotes shared by teammates internally) that teammates feel more well-rested with at least two weeks off from work. Mattress company The Sleep Judge studied how time off policies impact employees’ overall well-being. Regarding ideal vacation length times, most participants felt more well-rested, productive, and energized after 11-15 days off.

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer - Our New Transparency Dashboard
Benefits of time off by duration, and readiness to return based off time and type of vacation. Data sourced from The Sleeping Judge, Vacation Time and Employee Health, (2022).

We also see higher rates of return readiness with extended vacations and with actually going somewhere on vacation as opposed to a staycation. We understand that domestic and international trips aren’t always realistic options. Still, we hope that encouraging teammates to unplug fully will help them feel more well-rested.

Have 4-day work weeks impacted how much time we take off?

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer - Our New Transparency Dashboard
We found our teammates took less vacation time in 2021 & 2022

To see how four-day work weeks may have impacted how our team takes time off, we’ve pulled in historical data from Timetastic (a tool we use to manage and record leave), and in the graph below we can see that our team booked fewer vacation time in 2020 and 2021.

After the introduction of our 4-day work-week in May 2020, we see how much of an effect it’s had on how our team takes time off. Many teammates have reported that since the introduction of this new workweek schedule, they’ve felt a better sense of work-life balance and improved stress levels. As a result, we speculate that this has led to teammates feeling the need to take less time off due to having consistent consecutive three-day weekends. We also considered the following factors:

  • Long weekends feel like a “mini-break” ahead of each work week.
  • Taking a week off work uses only four days of vacation allowance rather than the five days previously needed, thus making it possible to book a week away from work and use only four days of your vacation allowance, potentially giving each team member an additional 52 days away from work each year.
  • Limitations and concerns around travel due to the COVID pandemic may have impacted teammates’ willingness to travel.

We’re curious to see how this data trends as we move forward, and while it may seem like teammates are taking less time off, it appears that overall our team feels happier with four-day work weeks and can take time off as needed throughout the year easily.

We know cultural factors influence an individual's decision about booking time away from work. Research shows that U.S. workers are less inclined to take time off due to the fear that booking vacation indicates a poor work ethic. So much so that in 2018, Americans left over 768 million days of paid time off unused.

We also learned that gender and age can impact time-off habits. For example, in Fortune’s article on vacation habits, it was reported that only 44 percent of millennial women use all their vacation time compared to 54 percent of millennial men. In Expedia's Vacation Deprivation report, younger employees (Millennials and Gen Z) take less time off and are more likely to experience burnout than their counterparts aged 50 and older.

Reluctance to take a vacation may also be related to the fact that paid time off in the U.S. is a benefit rather than a statutory entitlement (the U.S. is the only industrialized nation where this is the case). Commonplace at-will employment contracts, where employees can be fired without reason, can also contribute to this reluctance. Being a workaholic might feel like a wise strategy to minimize the risk of falling out of favor with your employer.

At Buffer, we want everyone to take a healthy and enjoyable time away from work and fully disconnect. We see this as one way to hold ourselves accountable to that goal.

Our main takeaways

Through much trial and error, we've found a few benefits that seem to work well for our globally distributed team, and we'd recommend these particular approaches for similarly structured organizations seeking to support their team's health and well-being:

  • Implementing a four-day work week.
  • Instituting a minimum vacation policy.
  • Observing all national and local holidays where teammates are located.
  • Providing Wellness days so teammates feel empowered to take care of themselves without the worry of planning around their work schedules.

This project, and the research and analysis around it, have prompted a few questions for us. Is there a correlation between planned time away (vacation) and sick time? Between vacation time and salary? Our sample size of 83 teammates is likely too small to generate definitive conclusions, but it could be interesting to explore. We could also look into surveying teammates just before and after a week or more vacation to better understand how vacation impacts well-being and performance.

Thanks so much for reading. Over to you! Is there any information or context that we are missing? Perhaps you'd like to see an annual report based on this data? Send us any questions you may have on the topic on Twitter!

https://buffer.com/resources/heres-how-much-time-we-take-off-at-buffer-our-new-transparency-dashboard-2/

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer – Our New Time Off Dashboard

🖊️
We created this new dashboard during Build Week, where the entirety of Buffer came together in small teams to spend a week focusing on building and shipping new features. Read more about Build Week here.

This specific project was meant to help our team members prioritize their mental health by providing a deep dive into how we utilize our vacation time as a company.

Amy Lee Bennett, Carlos Muñoz, and Juliana Gomez also contributed to this blog post.

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer - Our New Time Off Dashboard

Transparency is one of our core values at Buffer. We've found that it builds trust, holds us accountable, and can push our industry forward, and one of the ways we embrace this value is by publishing public dashboards to share things like our salaries and revenue.

We're excited to add a new transparent dashboard to share our time off stats here. We hope this will contribute to conversations around healthy workplaces and how employers can better support their employees’ mental health and well-being through four-day work weeks and various types of personal leave.

Our teammates need planned time away from work to stay healthy. Many studies have shown that time away from work improves mental and physical health, prevents burnout, and promotes a better work-life balance. But according to Expedia’s 2022 Vacation Deprivation report, 61 percent of American workers feel that their vacations don’t feel like “true vacations” and unplugging from work is steadily becoming more challenging. A whopping 71 percent of workers are feeling more burned out than ever.

Why an unlimited vacation policy, isn’t always the best policy

Initially, we believed an unlimited vacation policy would be the solution and we felt it aligned with our intention to offer generous compensation and benefits. And who wouldn’t love unlimited time off from work, right? Ironically, fewer team members took time off, and it wasn’t just the case at Buffer: studies have shown that unlimited vacation policies can actually hinder employees from taking time off work. So we went back to the drawing board and decided to go in an entirely different direction: encouraging all teammates to take a minimum of three weeks off per year (15 days), in addition to national holidays.

So far, this feels like a good balance for our team. We can still provide parameters around minimum vacation time (which mitigates any awkwardness or qualms about taking time off under unlimited vacation policies) whilst facilitating other flexible paid time off options. Some of these include:

  • Asking all new parents to take 16 weeks off for family leave and any additional time needed for birthing parents.
  • A six-week paid sabbatical for every team member after five years, which teammates can use however they’d like. We’ve seen team members travel the world, focus on side projects, and spend quality time with family.
  • Volunteer leave to empower team members to take time off work to make an impact on initiatives they feel called to support.
  • A Local Election Day, so teammates can take time off to vote and participate in any election activities, such as working at polls.
  • A Wellness day for teammates to receive preventative care, such as dental cleanings, and physical and vision exams.

Why we’re transparently sharing how Buffer teammates take time off

We know that one of the most significant benefits of a fully remote team is our teammates' flexibility and autonomy in organizing their work and schedule. We don't quite want to erode that autonomy by enforcing time away, but we do want to ensure that teammates are taking adequate time off and getting the rest they deserve.

This was the driving force behind us building this dashboard: to evaluate trends and habits related to how teammates take time off and make certain that teammates are taking advantage of our time-off policy to optimize their health and happiness. Below is a quick preview, you can check our full live dashboard here.

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer - Our New Time Off Dashboard
A graph tracking our team's vacation statistics 

In addition to building out our transparent time off dashboard, we learned that our team has taken a total of 1151 vacation days in 2022 so far, meaning we're averaging about 13.71 days off per teammate. So we should be on track to meet our goal of an average of at least 15 vacation days per teammate by the end of 2022. Additionally, we did a drill-down by team and found that our Engineering team seems to be trailing other teams with how much vacation time they've taken:

Product: Average 16 days

Marketing: Average 15.6 days

Advocacy: Average 15.2 days

Finance: Average 15 days

Executive: Average 14.5 days

People: Average 13.7 days

Engineering: Average 11.8 days

Spotting these trends helps us focus our efforts to ensure teammates feel empowered to take a vacation and explore if there are any barriers to booking that time.

Finding the right balance

To fully disconnect from work and experience the health benefits of a vacation, we’d hope to see team members take advantage of the policy and book at least one whole week off annually. For now, 15 days feels like a solid sweet spot, as we’ve seen reports (both through external research and anecdotes shared by teammates internally) that teammates feel more well-rested with at least two weeks off from work. Mattress company The Sleep Judge studied how time off policies impact employees’ overall well-being. Regarding ideal vacation length times, most participants felt more well-rested, productive, and energized after 11-15 days off.

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer - Our New Time Off Dashboard
Benefits of time off by duration, and readiness to return based off time and type of vacation. Data sourced from The Sleeping Judge, Vacation Time and Employee Health, (2022).

We also see higher rates of return readiness with extended vacations and with actually going somewhere on vacation as opposed to a staycation. We understand that domestic and international trips aren’t always realistic options. Still, we hope that encouraging teammates to unplug fully will help them feel more well-rested.

Have 4-day work weeks impacted how much time we take off?

Here’s How Much Time We Take Off At Buffer - Our New Time Off Dashboard
We found our teammates took less vacation time in 2021 & 2022

To see how four-day work weeks may have impacted how our team takes time off, we’ve pulled in historical data from Timetastic (a tool we use to manage and record leave), and in the graph below we can see that our team booked fewer vacation time in 2020 and 2021.

After the introduction of our 4-day work-week in May 2020, we see how much of an effect it’s had on how our team takes time off. Many teammates have reported that since the introduction of this new workweek schedule, they’ve felt a better sense of work-life balance and improved stress levels. As a result, we speculate that this has led to teammates feeling the need to take less time off due to having consistent consecutive three-day weekends. We also considered the following factors:

  • Long weekends feel like a “mini-break” ahead of each work week.
  • Taking a week off work uses only four days of vacation allowance rather than the five days previously needed, thus making it possible to book a week away from work and use only four days of your vacation allowance, potentially giving each team member an additional 52 days away from work each year.
  • Limitations and concerns around travel due to the COVID pandemic may have impacted teammates’ willingness to travel.

We’re curious to see how this data trends as we move forward, and while it may seem like teammates are taking less time off, it appears that overall our team feels happier with four-day work weeks and can take time off as needed throughout the year easily.

We know cultural factors influence an individual's decision about booking time away from work. Research shows that U.S. workers are less inclined to take time off due to the fear that booking vacation indicates a poor work ethic. So much so that in 2018, Americans left over 768 million days of paid time off unused.

We also learned that gender and age can impact time-off habits. For example, in Fortune’s article on vacation habits, it was reported that only 44 percent of millennial women use all their vacation time compared to 54 percent of millennial men. In Expedia's Vacation Deprivation report, younger employees (Millennials and Gen Z) take less time off and are more likely to experience burnout than their counterparts aged 50 and older.

Reluctance to take a vacation may also be related to the fact that paid time off in the U.S. is a benefit rather than a statutory entitlement (the U.S. is the only industrialized nation where this is the case). Commonplace at-will employment contracts, where employees can be fired without reason, can also contribute to this reluctance. Being a workaholic might feel like a wise strategy to minimize the risk of falling out of favor with your employer.

At Buffer, we want everyone to take a healthy and enjoyable time away from work and fully disconnect. We see this as one way to hold ourselves accountable to that goal.

Our main takeaways

Through much trial and error, we've found a few benefits that seem to work well for our globally distributed team, and we'd recommend these particular approaches for similarly structured organizations seeking to support their team's health and well-being:

  • Implementing a four-day work week.
  • Instituting a minimum vacation policy.
  • Observing all national and local holidays where teammates are located.
  • Providing Wellness days so teammates feel empowered to take care of themselves without the worry of planning around their work schedules.

This project, and the research and analysis around it, have prompted a few questions for us. Is there a correlation between planned time away (vacation) and sick time? Between vacation time and salary? Our sample size of 83 teammates is likely too small to generate definitive conclusions, but it could be interesting to explore. We could also look into surveying teammates just before and after a week or more vacation to better understand how vacation impacts well-being and performance.

Thanks so much for reading. Over to you! Is there any information or context that we are missing? Perhaps you'd like to see an annual report based on this data? Send us any questions you may have on the topic on Twitter!

https://buffer.com/resources/heres-how-much-time-we-take-off-at-buffer-our-new-transparency-dashboard-2/

4 Alternative Ways to Approach Black Friday in 2022

4 Alternative Ways to Approach Black Friday in 2022

We’ve all been part of the rush to figure out gifts for family and friends as the end of the year approaches. Many companies even recommend starting holiday shopping months in advance to avoid shipping delays or out-of-stock notifications. The holiday season often means a busy time for brands — and that’s what events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday intend to capitalize on.

But consumer sentiments are changing. People are questioning and expecting more of the brands they shop from. Brands themselves are also saying no to the flash flood of demand and the rush to supply. In this article, we want to highlight how businesses can use the shopping season as an opportunity to do good instead of encouraging the same old consumer habits while maintaining a strong brand purpose.

Highlighting other businesses to support

Instead of sharing discounts, some businesses choose to highlight small businesses to support in a bid to give back to the community and discourage excess consumerism.

Ocean Bottle, a reusable bottle brand, highlighted other businesses to support and why on Twitter and Instagram. The reason, they shared, was to “…show how consumers can be a force for good by highlighting a few small brands that could use [your] support that 'do good' too."

The businesses Ocean Bottle highlighted also fit with the mission to ‘do good.’ One of them was From Babies with Love, a “purpose-led sustainable gifting brand” that donates 100% of its profits to orphaned and abandoned children worldwide.

DAME, a sustainable period products company, took its spotlight a step further, highlighting small businesses in one post and educating consumers in another.

Along with Black Friday encouraging people to buy more than they need, one of the key statistics highlighted by DAME’s educative post was illuminating on the push for more sustainable practices during the shopping season: eighty percent of clothes from Black Friday sales end up in a landfill.

🖊️
There are specific days for highlighting small businesses around the shopping season as well. Check out our article on Small Business Saturday for some more ideas.

In recent years, more brands have switched up their Black Friday marketing strategy by supporting social causes instead. Many brands choose to donate the profits from their shopping season sales on Giving Tuesday or independent of any particular event.

Misfits Market is a sustainable grocery company that allows customers to shop for groceries in curated boxes that would have been thrown out at big-chain supermarkets. Instead of offering discounts on Black Friday, they partner with Feeding America to donate money and meals through their skipped box donation program. Customers can choose to donate their order instead of just skipping it to earn points.

Grove Collaborative, a home goods company, also skipped Black Friday altogether for Giving Tuesday, allowing customers to donate or gift a donation to a chosen cause.

Stasher Bags, a reusable bag brand, highlighted the benefits of shopping from a sustainable brand and offered a discount.

In addition, they highlighted that they donate 1 percent of their profits year-round and made an additional pledge of $50,000 to the Surfrider foundation during Black Friday.

Skipping Black Friday entirely to do something different and make a statement

Some businesses choose to skip Black Friday entirely, creating their own spin on the event. Rubies in the Rubble, a condiments brand, shared that they would be doing Green Friday  – a day to shop from small, sustainable brands instead of Black Friday.

In another post, Rubies in the Rubble asked their audience to tag small businesses to shop from.

Ombar Chocolate also chose to do Green Friday instead of Black Friday by highlighting other small businesses and donating all the profits from products sold to Fundación Jocotoco, a nature-focused nonprofit organization.

Paynter, a sustainable fashion brand, chose to donate instead of discounts for Black Friday. Paynter’s animosity towards the season can be linked to its brand ethos to create a better way to consume clothing.

The brand only releases new products in batches, so its business model doesn’t lend itself to Black Friday as it is currently practiced anyway. But they choose to actively take a stance against Black Friday, going as far as closing shop entirely in October 2020 and instead starting their now popular Paynter at the Pub meetups.

Like Paynter, This is Unfolded is a sustainable fashion brand trying to encourage low-waste consumption. The brand creates made-to-order clothes, only making an item when an order has been completed. The company created ‘Do Good Friday,’ a way for their customers to shop better and positively impact the world simultaneously.

The idea is to highlight businesses and practices that don’t encourage waste or purchase regret, as Black Friday does.

Promoting conscious consumption

One of the best ways to approach Black Friday from a new perspective is by encouraging conscious consumption – often easier if your brand already adopts sustainable practices. You can keep to the traditional Black Friday style of offering discounts or new products while also encouraging consumers to shop sustainably.

This is the approach that Pela, a phone case company, took by doing regular Black Friday promotions through discounts while highlighting how shopping from them benefits the planet. In addition to supporting a small business, shopping at Pela means that customers donate to 1 Percent For The Planet, a nonprofit whose partners contribute 1 percent of their sales to environmental causes.

Wild, a natural deodorant brand, conducted a campaign in tandem with their Black Friday promotion, pledging to plant a tree with every order made.

On their blog, Wild shared their motivations for approaching Black Friday in this manner, saying, “As a small company, we cannot stop the waste that all Black Friday sales will cause by not taking part. Instead, we’re using this time as an opportunity to challenge shopping habits for the better and propel sustainable products into the mainstream.”

4 Alternative Ways to Approach Black Friday in 2022

EYO Active, a fitness wear brand, took an interesting approach to Black Friday by raising their prices by 300 percent.

The founder, Lucie Halley-Trotter, shared in an Instagram post that she started EYO to tackle waste, not create it.

The post went on to say, “Every year, the big brands inflate and then slash their prices and pressure people into buying things they don’t need, and a whopping 80 percent of it ends up in landfill. As a business on a mission to empower women and get people to reappraise their relationship with fast fashion, I refuse to play ball. So, instead of cutting my prices for the weekend, I’m tripling them.”

4 Alternative Ways to Approach Black Friday in 2022

Lucie shared that they didn’t make any sales from this tactic – but that was the point. “We used this ‘holiday’ to show the world that we stand strongly behind our core morals,” she said. The campaign was well-received among consumers, as the brand shared in a follow-up post, showing that perhaps consumers are also looking for more sustainable ways to shop.


Most businesses find a lot of success around the shopping season, so it’s not practical to expect everyone to take a firm stance against Black Friday or Cyber Monday. There are other ways to take advantage of the season without encouraging overconsumption, and these brands have proven it.

What are your thoughts on Black Friday? Do you often find that you make more sales and get more customers during this period? We’d love to hear your thoughts over on Twitter @buffer.

https://buffer.com/resources/black-friday-social-media/

How We Made Our Hybrid Meetup Inclusive

How We Made Our Hybrid Meetup Inclusive

In early September, our team scheduled and organized our first in person meetup in Lisbon, Portugal. The initial plan was to gather in person and spend a week together, getting to know each other better and invest time into strengthening our team. However, due to a mix of reasons, from family leave to health, only half of our team was able to attend in person.

I am the Engineering Manager for the Core Foundations team at Buffer, and we build and maintain the core elements for accessing, scheduling, and publishing to your social channels for our web application. Love being able to schedule Instagram Reels? We built that! Getting on board with our new TikTok channel? That’s also on us. Happy that your account is secure from imposters? We do that! We are a team of eight, including five engineers (Arek, Dace, Heather, José, Mick), Product Manager (Amanda), and our Designer (Sofia), and we are located across Europe and the USA. Over half of our team joined since we had to pause our annual retreats in 2020, which means that most of us had never met in person. While we firmly believe that we can do our jobs well remotely, we understand that there is still so much to be gained from meeting in person and naturally forming stronger bonds.

Amanda (our PM) and I were responsible for organizing and facilitating the meetup. Taking into account travel time, we were left with three days of team time. We dedicated one day to sightseeing and two days to have hybrid team sessions which involved everyone’s attendance. I have significant experience designing and facilitating workshops for teams as an Agile coach, which I leaned upon when planning this one. The main difference is that all of my prior workshops have been either fully in person or fully remote. I’ve also worked with globally distributed teams in an organization that had a co-located company HQ office and smaller satellite offices or remote workers. Here I learned about the experiences that people based outside of HQ had in meetings with those co-located — they typically felt excluded. As someone who cares passionately about inclusivity, I took this feedback seriously and did my best to make all environments that I have influence over as inclusive as possible. In the past, I mandated in person workshops and dismissed hybrid options as being too hard. Since that isn’t an option anymore, I have had to learn!

Why hybrid meetups?

Hybrid (a combination of remote and co-located) workplaces have become the new norm as companies transform from the necessary remote working conditions of the pandemic. With over 85% of employees stating that it is their preferred way of working and no productivity reduction, it seems unlikely that this will change. This flexibility has led to employees working from anywhere, which leads to timezone differences. Additionally, business travel has remained less than in pre-pandemic times, with companies wanting to continue to capitalize on the environmental and financial benefits realized during the pandemic and rise of remote collaboration tools, and people’s personal travel preferences changing. Meetings and workshops are still valuable forums for timely collaboration, and so now we must consider how we can make them effective when we can’t have everyone present in person — we have to think, how do we do this hybrid?

What I’ve learned about hybrid facilitation

1. Design the agenda and set up for whoever will find collaboration the most difficult.

When you have co-located and remote people participating in a meeting or workshop, it is hardest for anyone who is remote. Even our team, who are used to working remotely, naturally defaulted to focusing and talking to the people who were present in the room. Therefore, it’s critical to be intentional about designing workshops to be inclusive and to communicate the importance of that to everyone participating.

Some measures that I took were:

  • Highlight the situation and stress the importance of ensuring that our remote team member would feel included and able to be heard.
  • Create a sense of psychological safety by establishing ground rules at the beginning, including:
  •  Have a ‘safe word’ to call out if you feel like discussions are going off-track — ours was pineapple.
  •  Anyone can take a break without having to ask for permission.
  •  Ask everyone to be fully present (no phones or Slack open) or be upfront with other commitments that would require them to be otherwise.
  • As the facilitator, keep track of how often remote joiners are speaking and regularly ask them directly for input – it is also a good idea to make this intention clear from the beginning so that everyone is aware of the situation and also isn’t caught unaware.
  • Using the first day to do activities that helped us get to know each other’s personalities better, as we couldn’t rely on social dinners etc., to do that.
  • Everyone individually joins the Zoom calls rather than having our co-located group join one.
  • Use online tools — more coming on this later!

2. Recording sessions/conversations allowed anyone not attending to still contribute asynchronously.

We had five people in person in Lisbon, two in New York, and one in Ireland — that meant catering for three people joining remotely, and we were spread across two different timezones with a five-hour difference.

We wanted to be respectful of everyone’s working hours i.e., not force everyone in NY to start at 5 am or everyone in Europe to stay until 10 pm. So we broke up the days into two blocks – 10 am-1 pm CEST and 2 pm-6 pm CEST/9 am-1 pm CEST. This fit well around standard meal times and allowed our US teammates to dial in for a full second session. To enable them to participate in content that we discussed in the first session, we recorded them via Zoom and asked them to participate later by watching it and recording their own response, which we could watch later. Because they were in the same timezone, I asked them to do the activities together, which made it a more collaborative half-asynchronous/half-synchronous session.

3. Lean into your online tools

We use Zoom as our standard video conferencing tool and Loom for short messages. Using a digital whiteboard makes collaboration and note-taking simple — we use Miro to do all of our digital brainstorming, and I absolutely love it for its templates, ease of use, and the broad range of features.

While using physical stickies and whiteboards is a lot easier in the moment for those there in person, this was much easier because a) everyone could contribute easily independently (no having to write things down for remote contributors) and b) there was no need to take photos and later digitize them!

Pre-preparing everything in the Miro board (plus a few extra options) made it easier for Amanda and me to collaborate, and I felt more confident about how to facilitate everything on the day

How We Made Our Hybrid Meetup Inclusive
One of the Miro boards we used to determine discussion topics

4. Using our own devices set meetings on even ground

Everyone used their own laptops and cameras and joined the Zoom call; even those meeting in person made it feel less ‘me and them’ for anyone joining remotely. The way that we did it was to have one person leave their laptop microphone and speakers on while everyone else muted. Session facilitators shared their screen via Zoom for presentations and discussions, and during activities, everyone worked on the Miro board through their own browsers.
Although the people in the room tended to still face each other when speaking, one remote teammate (Mick) also mentioned that it made it easier to understand conversations when the audio was unclear!

It is easier for people who are present in person to contribute to verbal conversations – directly asking remote joiners for their opinion ensures they get the opportunity.

The mics on our laptops are good at picking up sound but not great — next time, I will bring a conference microphone and speaker! Also, our laptop’s mic/speakers/video weren’t in sync, which wasn’t awful but did make conversations feel disjointed sometimes.

Over to you

Hybrid facilitation is harder than in person, or even fully remote, facilitation, but not impossible! With some intention and clear communication with everyone involved, you can still have effective team workshops and meetings. However, it won’t be the same as a fully in person meetup, and it’s not fair for organizers or the team to claim otherwise. There will still be some elements missing for anyone joining remotely for a meetup like ours — we can’t record every interaction, and conversation that happens and so they miss out on those natural conversations.

Also, any learnings that you get from seeing people in person and their body language that Zoom calls just don’t provide. The main thing to remember is that there is still value in including everyone, and with some consideration, it can bring a lot of value to your team.

We’d love to hear your experience with hybrid meetups! Send us a tweet or join our community.

https://buffer.com/resources/inclusive-hybrid-meetup/

How These Small Businesses Are Growing Sustainably

How These Small Businesses Are Growing Sustainably

How do you know when to say ‘yes’ to opportunities for growth and ‘no’ to the things that will lead you from your path? Turning down chances to bring more money or manpower into your business can feel foolish. And in a time of billion-dollar valuations, it can be tempting to look at the growth of your business and feel inadequate. But growth looks different for every business, and it’s vital that business owners can identify when to scale and how to do it without compromising their core values.

In this article, we bring you success stories of businesses that have figured out ways to grow sustainably, entrepreneurs who scaled without compromise, and we offer practical advice to those thinking about retaining their identity while building their future.

🖊️
Small Business, Big Lessons is a podcast from Buffer that goes behind the scenes with inspirational small businesses to explore how they are questioning the best ways to build a business and uncover the big lessons we can learn from their journeys (so far). This article is adapted from the fourth episode, which is out everywhere you listen to podcasts now.

Define and understand your vision and values

When thinking about growth, it pays to take a holistic approach – to think hard about all of the aspects of your business, where you are, and where you want to be. Then use that to help identify areas of growth that best serve those goals.

Holly Howard runs consulting firm Ask Holly How and highlights the importance of not only understanding the vision for your business but also staying true to the experience you want to have. Not all businesses will grow into millions of revenue – and not all business owners want that. She says, “The reason we start a business, oftentimes, a lot of people will say for the money, but also people say for freedom, and what they mean is the freedom to work in the way that they want to work.”

To hone in on your vision, Holly shares the following questions she also asks the businesses she consults with:

  • How do you want to spend your time daily?
  • What are those interactions?
  • What are you doing with your time?

While it can be easy to define your vision and values, it can then be difficult to keep putting them into practice, especially when it comes to making decisions that will impact your business. Sheena Russell of Made with Local, a snack foods company, understands this.

Sheena faced some big decisions about how to respond to the growing demand for her products and how to scale her operations. “When you go to the energy bar section in your grocery store, you're gonna see that the lion's share of those bars are made in the same way because they're made at the same manufacturing facilities, with the same equipment, and with the same ingredients — just in different packaging,” she shared.

But Sheena wanted something different for her business: “We knew from the get-go, that we were not willing to take that route. I didn't want to make the same kind of product as everybody else. I didn't want to compromise on our product and on our values. [That] works for a lot of brands, but I just knew that it wasn't for us.”

She pushed back against convention and decided to build partnerships with social enterprise bakeries instead, even though that would slow the company's growth. But she maintains that she was and is proud of her decision. By sticking to her original vision, Sheena ensured Made with Local didn't lose its soul and continued to be the business she wanted.

Scaling your business isn't just a question of where you can grow and how you go about that growth, it’s also a question of sustainability. How much to grow and at what rate are equally important questions to grapple with. This is something that Joel Gascoigne, CEO at Buffer, has thought about a lot as he shares that, “When you're growing fast [at 50-100 percent every year], that pace of growth [can] cause a lot of problems culturally.”

Hypergrowth isn’t part of Joel’s vision for Buffer, who states that the ideal growth rate would be 20 to 30 percent yearly. “That’s the growth rate that allows us to be very intentional, [it] allows us to continue experimenting within our culture in the working environment,” he says.

The next step after defining your business’ vision is usually choosing which metrics to measure performance against. And if you have a set of values you don’t want to stray from, you’ll need to be firm about choosing metrics that help you maintain your vision.

Step away from traditional metrics to avoid traditional pressure

When you know your vision for your business, it’s easier to define the metrics with which you’ll measure performance. And although tried-and-true metrics exist for a reason, it’s crucial to determine and stick to your own goals – even if they buck against the traditional methods.

Huw Thomas, co-founder of Paynter Jacket, shared, “When it comes to growth, the stereotypical way to measure business is by its revenue, or the number of employees., We might look at it and just go okay, it was a positive measure of reputation or impact. How interesting we are as a brand.  Can we just stop for a minute and stop measuring traditional metrics and think of other ways to grow a brand.”

The founders of Paynter Jacket have avoided looking at their business through the lens of traditional growth metrics because the ways they want to grow are at odds with some conventional ideas of growth, such as producing more products. In a saturated market like fashion, choosing metrics and goals that make you stand out is also vital. “To make sure that we make a small dent in our industry, we'd like to be the thorn in the industry’s side. To make an impact, we need to be around for a long time, that doesn't necessarily mean that we have to be a big company or grow a lot. That means we do have to grow our reputation,” says Huw.

The Paynter founders focus on quality and sustainability, which also influence how they measure and determine how, when, and where to grow their business. Becky Okell also shares that because production takes so long, customers build an emotional connection with the brand and the product, so improving customer experience is an essential metric for them.

Each piece of your business framework, from your vision and values to the metrics you use to measure performance, impacts the other – including your chosen growth model. You may not start out with grand expectations, but most people hope for a successful business. Determining what to do when that success comes is one of the steps in defining what growth means for your business.

Evaluate your growth model — or define it if you don’t have one

Different businesses will scale in different ways – the priorities and values of the business owner often drive decisions to grow. “Sometimes people might think of growth as creating a family legacy. Other people have defined growth in terms of how can they set up a structure that they can take a sabbatical six months of the year. [And some] think of growth as scaling to some sort of acquisition…or an employee ownership model,” says Holly Howard.

However you think about your business, and whatever your vision is, a growth model can help you achieve the scale you seek. Zingerman’s, for example, hasn’t taken the traditional model to growth but has scaled regardless.

Instead of franchising or opening up more of the same original unit in different locations, Ari Weinzweig, co-founder and CEO, had a different idea of what the business could be. “Zingerman's community of businesses has certainly grown in a model that, at least in our minds, we made up, it's certainly not the typical growth model,” he says. “Those aren't necessarily bad [but] they're not for me.”

Although Ari and his co-founder Paul didn’t start out with a set-in-stone vision for Zingerman’s, Ari acknowledges that, in hindsight, they had one. “Essentially, [the vision] would have said from the beginning, we want something unique and really special. We also want great food, great service, a really down-to-earth place, and a great place for people to work. And those were very clear in our heads from the beginning. And then last but not least, and we knew from the beginning, we only wanted one [business].”

The growth model that Ari and Paul eventually devised was to create a community of businesses all operating as one connected organization with semi-autonomous pieces. In the way they imagined it and wrote it in the vision, each business would have a managing partner or partners in it.

“So there was an owner on site who was really passionate about the product and or service that that business did, and that we would operate as one synergistic organization that models that philosophy and that framework still underlies everything that we do,” Ari explains.

Following this growth model, Zingerman's family of businesses now includes the original deli, a roadhouse diner, a creamery, a bakery, and many more companies, including a business management consultancy.

Prioritize people when seeking growth

Periods of growth are periods of change. When you're growing and changing, it's very likely that you will have to make compromises — choices between two opposing priorities — and making the right choices can be more accessible when you communicate and consult with other people involved in your business.

Ari understands the value of involving the community in decision-making, saying, “Compromise is something that we all do every day – and that's okay. Part of the benefits of the community is that we can bring diverse perspectives together of like-minded people and through that arrive at better conclusions. And then by making conscious collective choices, when we do compromise, it's a group [decision].”

Part of the value of prioritizing people is avoiding communication breakdowns which can lead to tension and mistrust. Holly emphasizes the importance of over-communicating with your team by pointing out what happens if you don’t: “…when the team doesn't have an awareness of what's happening, that's when we start to have tensions within the team. Or we might say we have things like culture issues.”

Whenever you're going through a phase of change, involve the people that are stakeholders in your business. Explain why you’re making certain decisions and what you hope to achieve. Give the people your big-picture context.

“We define that vision or purpose statement, and they live in the manual, or they live on the wall in a poster or something like that. But they should be living and breathing documents that continually weave into our conversations. Maybe we're checking on our goals or our KPIs – we want to keep that context alive,” Holly advises.

Be aware that alternative paths to scaling your business will bring unique challenges

Growth can be challenging and will require hard choices. So to be prepared, you need to look inwards and consider how our decisions now impact the future we want to build.

One of the main challenges of scaling a business is staying agile in understanding and defining who the customer is as you grow. “Understanding our customer should be a continual process,” says Holly. “We sit down to define who the customer is and then we're like running with a content calendar and strategies and our social media marketing, but it should be a constant conversation. Are we sure that this person doesn't exist in this area?

Another challenge might be dealing with the consequences of an alternative choice in your overall business model. Made with Local has been outpacing demand and production capacity but their decision about how to scale their business sometimes leads to capacity crunches.

As Sheena shares, “It has slowed our growth, because we've been doing things differently. And proving that we can grow this model, but we've been pulled out in the market faster than what we've been able to grow at. So that has been tricky.”

Or, as you grow, you might find yourself with more competition and a changing industry that requires you to redesign and repackage your product – a challenge that Buffer has been facing. Navigating shifts in the market while staying true to the vision and mission of the company has been a significant challenge over the years.

As Joel shares, “Social networks changing so rapidly has been a challenging place to be within the last five, six years. [There have] been times when we've seen opportunities to keep our growth going. But it would have taken away from really the DNA of the company, which to me was always around merely serving small businesses and staying committed to them.” Working through challenges like these is why you must know and connect with the vision you have for your business.

Finally, when you’ve chosen an alternative path to growth, it can be a strength to take the constraints you encounter and turn them into an opportunity, as Paynter has done. If they chose the traditional way of making clothing, they wouldn’t have the same connection with customers.

“To think about growing our experience and making [it] better, we have to be firm on staying small and what that actually means to us. So think about what you have and the constraints that you have in your business. And then what that actually means because it often means that you can do things in a way that no one else would,” shares Huw.

Want more on growing a business? Check out the full episode.

For more thoughts on growing a business from the small business owners in this interview, check out Season 2, Episode 4 of the Small Business Big Lessons podcast.

https://buffer.com/resources/sustainable-growth-business/

Why these Small Businesses are Intentionally Staying Small

🖊️
Small Business, Big Lessons is a podcast from Buffer that goes behind the scenes with inspirational small businesses to explore how they are questioning the best ways to build a business and uncover the big lessons we can learn from their journeys (so far). Check out the third episode here.

Why these Small Businesses are Intentionally Staying Small

Small businesses are small for a reason – they often have a limited budget and resources, and usually consist of fewer team members. Yet, this can be their greatest asset. When things are done at a smaller scale, without the pressure to pursue growth, entrepreneurs are less constrained and can fully embrace their vision and goals. This leads to building a business that they can feel good about.

Companies don’t have to grow at an exponential rate in order to make a great impact. In season 2, episode 3 of our podcast Small Business Big Lesson, we cover how for some businesses, staying small can be a superpower. In this companion blog post, we’ll share their stories and showcase why, sometimes, thinking small can lead to the biggest dividends.

What are the benefits of staying small?

There can be a misperception that small businesses need to expand their operations in order to be successful. Not only can small businesses stay small and still be profitable, but there are a myriad of other benefits that they can reap.

Stronger team relationships

According to business coach Holly Howard, one of the biggest advantages of staying small is that it allows for a healthier company culture where individuals can form stronger ties with one another.

As mentioned in season 2, episode 2 of Small Business, Big Lessons, employees can sometimes get the short side of the stick when a company focuses on growth at the expense of their team members. This can lead to team members feeling overworked, undervalued, and less connected to the company, decreasing employee engagement – the emotional commitment an employee has to the company. But when team sizes are smaller, there’s more opportunity to develop a healthier, more connected company culture.

“​​It has to do with intimacy,” Holly said. “When you intentionally stay small, you can have really meaningful connections with everybody on the team or in the company.”

Creating a healthy company culture is not only good for employees’ overall satisfaction, but it can lead to a better bottom line for the business. Studies have found that when teams have higher levels of engagement, productivity increases by 17 percent, and sales increase by 20 percent.

More autonomy

Another plus of running a small business is that entrepreneurs have more autonomy and control in their day-to-day work. This is because small business owners are their own bosses and can do whatever they feel is best for their company. Since team sizes are typically smaller and there are fewer levels of management to go through, small businesses allow for more adaptability – a huge pro for entrepreneurs.

According to Forbes, a 2018 study found that this very freedom allowed self-employed individuals to be more engaged and find their jobs more rewarding than their peers who worked traditional jobs. Holly believes this flexibility is one of the reasons some entrepreneurs choose to intentionally stay small.

“The other part might be this creative adaptability that you really have when you are smaller, versus when you've scaled to a certain size,” said Holly. “And that creative adaptability is something that a lot of entrepreneurs are very passionate about, that really inspires them.”

More equity

More small businesses can lead to a more equitable society, according to Sparktoro co-founder Rand Fishkin. He believes that it’s healthier for society and democracy when there are more thriving small businesses and fewer monopolies. This is a driving principle for how he operates Sparktoro, and why he has no plans to expand the company in the near future.

“A big part of our passion around [small businesses] comes from our broader beliefs about sustainability and economic justice,” Rand said. “We believe that economies work really well, democracy works really well, capitalism works really well when there are lots of small and medium businesses, lots of competition in a sector, and that competition is fair and equitable.”

Why these Small Businesses are Intentionally Staying Small
Rand (L), co-founder of Spark Toro shooting a promotional video

And Rand’s not wrong. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “small businesses create jobs, build wealth and help close racial and gender wealth gaps, especially in communities where opportunities have been limited historically.”

Championing small businesses means supporting diverse and oftentimes underrepresented communities and also stimulating the economy.

How staying small has allowed these businesses to operate differently

Rather than sticking to the status quo, these entrepreneurs are able to run their businesses differently, and in ways that are more sustainable and impactful, all because of their agile size.

Harlow pursues growth on their own terms

Andrea and Samantha left their marketing jobs because they wanted more autonomy in their work lives, something they now have at Harlow – a small business they created together that helps freelancers get organized.

At Harlow, they’ve been able to establish ground rules that allow their team to work at their own pace, including no meeting days, flexible working hours, and prioritizing self-care. These are initiatives they were able to put in place because they’re a smaller team, and they believe these policies will benefit them in the long run.

“We want to build a profitable and sustainable business, and one that doesn't burn us out, you know? We are in this for the next 5, 10 years,” Andrea said.

Staying small has allowed the co-founders to pursue growth on their own terms. While they do hope they attract more clients to Harlow, they’re not willing to compromise their values in doing so.

“I think the thing that gets lost sometimes when we talk about staying small is it's not that we want the company to stay small. We want more and more users to join Harlow and experience the power of Harlow and the simplicity of Harlow. …. But again, we want to do so in a way that feels good for us.”

Paynter Jacket cultivates personal connections with their suppliers

A huge plus for Becky and Huw of Paynter Jacket – an ethical clothing company that releases four limited edition jackets each year – is that they’re able to develop a close relationship with their suppliers. This is often not the case for larger clothing companies that place bulk orders and never meet the factory workers who produce their garments.

This relationship between Becky, Huw, and their supplies didn’t happen overnight. But as Paynter Jacket placed more and more small orders, a trusting relationship soon developed.

“After long enough of doing that, when the proof is there, and they do trust you – that's when [the relationship] then turns into something really special. And actually, our factories have told us they are small businesses too.”

Becky also believes by ordering a limited number of jackets each year, and by forging friendships with the factory workers, they help ensure their products are made with the highest quality.

“And we were really lucky to work with some incredible suppliers,” she said. “So we would rather keep working with them and keep creating orders that are the right size for them to manufacture at a really, really high standard and grow together.”

SparkToro forms a different relationship with their customers

As a company not focused on hypergrowth, Sparktoro isn’t interested in retaining as many customers as possible like other Saas companies. In fact, Rand knows that most tech companies purposely make it hard for customers to cancel a membership or subscription and he’s very intentional in doing things differently.

“There's a lot of what I call ‘UX dark patterns' and sort of marketing tips and tricks that you can use to make sure people don't leave the subscription,” Rand said. “You make the cancel button harder to find, or you have to call to cancel … And we don't do any of that stuff.”

Instead, Sparktoro sends monthly reminders to customers to cancel their subscriptions before they get billed. This means that the small business does have a high cancellation rate, but, they also have a very high recidivism rate, meaning people will renew their membership.

“People come back to the product again, and again,” Rand said. “We've had folks who signed up for Spark Toro and quit five, six times, and we've only been around two years. We wouldn't be able to do those kinds of things if we were pursuing growth at all costs.”

Other personal benefits these entrepreneurs have gained from staying small

Operating small and lean businesses has provided these entrepreneurs with many advantages in their personal lives as well.

Rand observes a chill workweek

Sparktoro’s three team members observe what they call a “chill work week." Rather than spending over 40 hours a week working, as many tech companies do, Rand and his colleagues typically put in 25 to 30 hours a week.

Of course, there are some weeks when the team may have to work more hours, but for the most part, they’ve been able to run a successful business and maintain a great work-life balance all at once. Rand credits this to the company’s philosophy around keeping things small, not chasing growth, and focusing on the most essential work.

“I spent almost a month in Italy in the spring,” Rand said. “And I was barely putting in two hours a day. It was beautiful – running a company that's got a million-plus dollar ARR run rate and growing nicely. And still managing to work very few hours essentially.”

Samantha and Andrea conduct one-on-one meetings with freelancers

Samantha and Andrea conduct free, 15-minute one-on-one sessions with various freelancers to offer advice and support. It’s a way for them to give back to the community but also grow their personal networks as well.

If they were a larger company, it would be difficult to scale this size of a program, but because they’re smaller and have more flexibility in their days, it’s something they can easily fit into their schedules. Their nimble size allows them to quickly pursue these kinds of opportunities, rather than having to go through a longer approval process.

“It would be a lot harder to launch a program like that at a larger organization … and so it is wonderful that we can just test something out like that. I can, on a spur of the moment, just tweet about something, and then we can build a program around it,” Samantha said.

Becky and Huw get to be a part of every step of the process

A huge perk of running a small company for Becky and Huw is that they’re able to work on every aspect of the business – including product design, customer service, annual planning, and setting up photo shoots – themselves.

“We're both really detail-oriented,” Becky said. “And we just get really excited that we have a whole variety of things that make up our day. And we're completely in charge of our own learning.”

Why these Small Businesses are Intentionally Staying Small
Huw and Becky at a clothing factory 

As they only have one other part-time employee, being a small team has also allowed for more originality in their work. Becky says that this shows through in everything they do, including the way their product shots turn out.

“It might mean that if there's a storm, and your location is the beach, then your umbrellas are upside down and things look a bit chaotic,” she said. “And you're probably going to stop and look at that picture a lot more than you would with something that looks kind of perfect.”

This is important to the duo, as they always want their customers to see that even though they’ve created a successful fashion brand, Paynter Jacket consists of real people.

It’s not that there aren’t any challenges to staying small, but ultimately, these business owners wouldn’t have it any other way. For Huw in particular, running Paynter Jacket with Becky has been immensely rewarding and he hopes to keep doing it for years to come.

“There's a great quote in this book called ‘Rework,’ and it's, ‘small isn't a stepping stone, small is a great destination in itself,’” he said. “We truly believe there's beauty in small business. Just the statistics of it. Small businesses are the biggest employers in the country.”

Want more on intentionally staying small? Check out the full episode

The businesses we interviewed in this episode have further insights to share about intentionally staying small and its value for brands. Check out the full episode here.

https://buffer.com/resources/intentionally-staying-small-business/

How We Set Communications Expectations As A Fully Remote Team

How We Set Communications Expectations As A Fully Remote Team

As an entirely remote team of more than 80 people, how we communicate is critical to how we operate as a company, collaborate, and build a solid remote culture. As they say, clear is kind. So we aim to be clear in our communication with each other across the team, and clear as a company what those expectations for communication best practices are so everyone can be aligned.

We didn't always have communications expectations written down. When I joined Buffer in 2016, it was something I learned through others while onboarding. At the time, we had a document sharing how we approach conversations with our customers to be respectful and to stay close to our values, and that document also guided how we spoke to each other. We wrote it down in recent years to bring clarity to unspoken best practices and also as a helpful tool when onboarding new teammates who aren't yet familiar with our communications practices at Buffer.

Below is a direct excerpt from our internal wiki with our communications expectations for Buffer teammates. Give it a read, and let us know your thoughts on Twitter!


Communications Expectations

🤝
These are the expectations that are set for how we all communicate at Buffer, including the tools we use and the response times that can be expected. As a fully-distributed, global team, it's important that we maintain certain expectations so that important discussions and project work can move forward in a timely manner.

Please make sure your notifications and email filters are set up appropriately for your role, your role's tools, and your area's needs based on these guidelines.

1. Check our top communications tools, either daily or weekly.

There are a lot of tools we use to communicate, and while it's important to set boundaries for notifications, as a remote team, it's also key to be mindful of our communication and check certain tools daily or weekly.

Tools to check daily

  • Slack: Please check Slack every day that you are working and update your status or name to reflect if you are on vacation, sabbatical, or family leave, and when possible, if you're out for unplanned reasons like illness or a personal day.
  • Threads: Threads is our primary communication tool, so please check in at least once a day and mark Threads for follow-up as needed.

Depending on your role:

  • Depending on your team and your role, it might make sense for you to also check Notion, Jira, Paper, or Trello daily. Check with your manager or the People team if you're unsure.

Tools to check weekly

  • Email: While email is not necessarily crucial for many roles at Buffer, it is important that you check your email and either respond or pass along any emails that might come your way.
  • Notion: HQ, in particular, is the hub for project work. Check out your team's dashboard to follow along with project progress and add any updates.

Depending on your role:

  • Depending on your team and your role, it might make sense for you to also check Jira, Dropbox Paper, or Trello weekly.

2. Respond in a timely manner when you are tagged.

Respond on Slack the same day.

On Slack, if someone specifically @ mentions you or DMs you, the expectation is that they will receive a reply by the end of your normal working day, assuming you are working a regular day.

Respond in Threads within two days if you're tagged, one week if not.

On Threads, if you are mentioned in a Thread specifically, the expectation is that you reply within two working days. If you're waiting on a response from someone and they don't answer within two days, feel free to ping them again.

If you are not mentioned specifically, and it isn't timely, the response time can be up to one week.

Some threads don't require a response but merely an acknowledgment in the form of an emoji. In that case, these response times do not apply.

For all other tools (Dropbox Paper comments, Notion comments, Jira, Trello, etc.), the expectation is within two days.

3. Know when to use asynchronous vs. synchronous.

We encourage asynchronous communication, though we do not only communicate asynchronously, and synchronous communication still plays an important role at Buffer.

Synchronous
If something is urgent, if there are a lot of people involved or if something is really complex, then communicate via synchronous channels. These include:

  • Slack
  • Zoom
  • Potentially – texting or calling if you can't get a hold of someone.

Asynchronous
If something is not-urgent or not time-sensitive, then communicate asynchronously via:

  • Slack
  • Dropbox Paper
  • Notion
  • Threads

4. Keep your calendar up to date.

Make sure your Google calendar reflects your working hours and use it to block out lunch hours or appointments to avoid double-booking.
Give at least one business day when possible if you need to reschedule a meeting. We understand that things come up, and this isn't always possible; please give as much of a heads-up as you can.

Communication Expectations by Tool

Slack

  • You're responsible for managing your downtime. It's important that people can talk to each other even when the recipient is not around. If we're each responsible for our own downtime (i.e., setting yourself up on Do Not Disturb when you're offline, not working, or in-the-zone; controlling notifications on your phone if you choose to install Slack there), we give the rest of the team full freedom to communicate as they like. It's your responsibility then to deal with the message when you're ready. (Tip: mark unread, star, or click "remind me" for any items you need to take action on so you don't forget!)
  • Default to public channels: When in doubt, always post a message where everyone can read it. Keep everyone updated on stuff that is not private!
  • Use status and profile to communicate availability: Share your status to let folks know when you're out sick, on vacation, or just deep in a focus period. Additionally, Buffer's Slack profiles include lots of great information like time zone, typical sign-on and -off times, and Calendly links. Make sure yours is filled out to help folks understand how best to communicate with you, and check others' as you work with them.
  • Be deliberate about your notifications: We recommend keeping Slack's recommended notification settings: only direct messages, @yous, and highlighted words. These settings eliminate worry about missing important messages without your phone or computer going off all day with less important conversations.
  • Communicate proactively: When you ping someone, give that person all the context they'll need in order to get back to you. (e.g., no need to message "Hi Joel!" and then wait for a reply before saying more). Do include links, docs, your deadline or desired response time, and anything that can move the conversation forward asynchronously.
  • Thread when you can: Using threads to reply to specific points helps us all keep up with the conversations we need to follow.
  • Quit/modify Slack when you need to focus: You can set yourself away, activate Do Not Disturb, or set your status to a focus mode when you want to focus on something without being interrupted.
  • Don't keep checking messages in the chat system constantly: Having unread messages on Slack doesn't mean you have to read them immediately! Let people get on with their work while you get on with yours. Save message-checking for when you are out of your focus zone.
  • @channel or @here?: Including @channel in a message will notify everyone that's in the chat room, but using @here will only notify the people who happen to be online at that moment. For non-urgent announcements, @here is always best. Use @channel and @everyone for emergencies only – it sends push and email notifications to everyone, including people who may be offline or on vacation.

Threads

  • Use Threads primarily for announcements, updates, asynchronous threads, and decision-making.
  • Use the follow-up function. (Note: It's expected that you don't leave a Thread marked for follow-up beyond the time it takes for you to act on it.) Mark threads for follow-up if you want to remember to reply later. However, be careful not to leave threads marked as for follow-up without responding. This leaves the others in the thread uncertain about your response.
  • Use the "Mark as decision" feature for decisions. When using Threads to make decisions, be sure to mark the comment that you land on as a decision as such so that it stands out in the conversation. Anyone can mark a comment as a decision.
  • Only join spaces that you work with regularly. To keep spaces relevant please only join spaces that you work with regularly. If you want to check out Threads, you can click on the headlines in the weekly Recap Thread and thus not have to "join" Spaces that aren't as applicable.

Email

  • Set an Out of Office response when you are away. So that anyone reaching out knows where else to direct their question or when to expect you back.
  • Forward emails that come your way but are meant for another person.

Google Calendar

  • Set your working hours. Set your working hours in Google Calendar so that teammates know when they can schedule meetings with you. Here's how to add your working hours to Google calendar.
  • Include a Zoom link in all meeting invites. Zoom should automatically populate when meetings are created in Google Calendar. Reach out to the People team if that isn't the case for you.

https://buffer.com/resources/communications-expectations-remote-team/

Why these Small Businesses are Turning Down Big Money

🖊️
Small Business, Big Lessons is a podcast from Buffer that goes behind the scenes with inspirational small businesses to explore how they are questioning the best ways to build a business and uncover the big lessons we can learn from their journeys (so far). Check out the second episode here.

Why these Small Businesses are Turning Down Big Money

In 2014, Buffer was offered a nine-figure deal from a giant tech company but our founder Joel Gascoigne turned it down. He’s not alone. While it may seem counterintuitive at first, sometimes saying no to big money can be the best move you can make for your small business. Oftentimes, if accepted, this money comes with strings attached that can alter your vision for your company. Choosing to do things on your own terms instead – but on a tighter budget –  can lead to a more sustainable business that allows you to make a greater impact as well.

In season two, episode two of our podcast, Small Business, Big Lessons, we spoke to entrepreneurs who chose to walk away from the traditional venture capital (VC) funding path without any regrets. In this companion blog post, we'll share their stories and why pursuing alternative models of funding was the right option for them.

What’s been the status quo for funding

Starting a business from the ground up is no easy task and usually requires at least some amount of money upfront. Traditionally, startups and small business owners might consider VC funding as a way to gather large investments. VCs will typically come in during the early stage and will inject a lump sum of money into the business to help get the ball rolling.

But just because an investor agrees to fund your business doesn’t mean they believe in your brand’s mission wholeheartedly. The traditional VC model operates by spreading a large amount of money across a range of companies, expecting at least some of them to fail. They earn back their investments by relying on the few startups and businesses that do succeed.

Once an investor comes on board, they usually will retain quite a bit of control over the business as well, impacting a company’s culture and operations. Unfortunately, the VC funding model is conducive to fast pace growth – which isn’t always the healthiest environment for these businesses.

You may already be seeing some of the downsides to traditional VC funding. So does Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Sparktoro, a small business revolutionizing audience research. Rand has a ton of experience in small business growth – he previously co-founded Moz, a SEO tool and software. He believes that this business model can actually hurt brands.

“What I believe is that if you don't force companies to pursue hyper growth, they are more likely to survive long term, and survival long term gives options for being profitable and giving off dividends to investors,” Rand said.

The other drawback here is that when entrepreneurs are approached by VC firms or angel investors –  individuals who use their own capital when investing – they can feel a ton of pressure to accept the deal, even if their vision doesn’t completely align with the investor’s goals.

Holly Howard, a business coach who consults entrepreneurs on the best strategies to pursue for their brands, also believes individuals should be more cautious when fundraising for their small business. Holly understands that entrepreneurs feel pressured to accept deals that seem promising on the surface. But she recommends individuals take a step back and really reflect on the deal.

“When we're in a stressful situation, we sometimes undermine our own values, because we feel like we need that money, or we're not sure if any other money is going to come through,” Holly said.

If you don’t accept these huge injections of cash, you may be wondering how else can a business get off the ground? Well, here are three other small businesses that managed to succeed without VC funds.

How these businesses gained more by pursuing alternative funding routes

While VC funding can garner tons of press and media attention, it is by no means the only option for growing a business. When working with clients, Holly reminds them that there are alternative routes that can be better suited for their companies.

“Fundraising is such a broad question,” she said. “And oftentimes, when people come, they think it's a very narrow question, you know, their concern is just raising money, and they don't realize the broad spectrum of possibilities.”

At Buffer, we’ve followed a somewhat non-traditional approach when it comes to growing as a startup. In 2018, we bought out our main venture capital investors. Even before then, back in 2014, Joel defied expectations when walking away from Buffer’s largest acquisition offer to date. But the decision didn’t come easily. It was only after many thoughtful conversations with the executive team that the answer became clear. In these meetings, Joel really reflected on Buffer’s mission and one specific question he asked himself was, “Are we done yet?”

“It was great because it led to really thinking deeply about, ‘why are we doing this?’ ‘What more can we do here?’ What do we gain if we take [the deal] and what do we lose?’” Joel said.

Ultimately, Joel realized there was still so much more he wanted to pursue with Buffer, and he knew the journey wasn't over yet. Another reason he declined the large offer from the tech company had to do with their plans for the future of Buffer. Had that company taken over, the reality was Buffer would no longer be a remote and transparent company.

“Where I really gained clarity was more in the cultural choices we made, especially the movements we ended up being a really big part of at the time, that was remote work … and then the other one was transparency,” Joel said. “Which to this day, we're probably still one of the most transparent companies in the world.”

By turning down this offer, Joel was able to keep Buffer’s core values intact.

A friends and family round has given Harlow more flexibility with their business

Harlow, a small business that helps freelancers organize their work, was founded in 2021 by Samantha Anderl and Andrea Wildy. The duo knew they didn’t want to build a company that only valued growth, which is why they decided from an early stage that VC money wasn’t for them.

Instead, they opted to do a family and friends round, which is a type of crowdfunding where many individuals – whether they be relatives or friends – can invest in your business. This kind of funding typically comes with fewer restrictions. A huge benefit of this is its led Harlow to have a variety of great investors who truly care about their business.

“We lean on our investors all the time. If we're struggling with any aspect of the business, there's somebody on the cap table that can help us out,” Andrea said.  “And we were also able to be picky about the types of people that invested in the business and we're really proud of the fact that over 50% of our investors are female.”

This model of funding has also forced them to be very deliberate with their financial decisions. But Samantha believes this ultimately allows them to run the business in a more sustainable way as it forces them to deepen their existing connections.

“We can't just come out of the gates and spend, you know, $50,000 a month on paid advertising to grow and get the word out there. Again, that kind of comes back to the benefit of community and building your audience in a sustainable and lean way,” Samantha said.

Both Andrea and Samantha are happy with their decision to crowdfund, as they know this has allowed them to run the Harlow the way they originally envisioned.

Personally investing allowed Paynter Jacket to be more creative and intentional in their approach

Becky and Huw co-found Paynter Jacket, a clothing company that releases four limited edition jackets each year, with 100 percent of their own personal savings. The co-founders were still early on in their careers, so the savings didn’t amount to much at the time. Still, they were able to stretch the money to cover all of their main costs: web designs, fonts, fabrics, and their manufacturing process.

Becky believes the fact that they had a limited budget which consisted entirely of their own money played a huge role in their eventual success.

“We had to make decisions that we felt were the right ones. We had to really consider those. I think also having a constraint definitely makes you more creative with your outcome … and it’s continued the way that we work today,” Becky said.

Their personal savings weren’t enough to cover the manufacturing costs initially, which is why they decided to use the ‘make to order’ model, which has now become an integral component of their business.

Why these Small Businesses are Turning Down Big Money
Paynter Jacket's latest release: The Italian Denim Carpenter Jacket (Courtesy of Paynter Jacket)

Today, Paynter Jacket drops sell out within minutes. This success has grabbed attention from multiple investors, but Becky and Huw aren’t interested as they don’t want to lose control over their vision for the brand. They’re very intent on being a different kind of clothing company, one that’s moving away from the fast fashion approach. For Huw, investing their personal money has made him even more connected to the business – and he and Becky don't plan on stopping anytime soon.

“We’re building real businesses, not businesses that we hope that one day we're going to flip or sell…,” Huw said. “We love what we do. We want to be doing this for as long as we can. As long as we can keep getting away with it.”

By foregoing the VC approach, you can provide more stability for your employees

What makes up a small business are the employees and team members who embrace the mission, put in the work, and create a unique culture. But more often than not, these very individuals become collateral damage – a consequence of following a traditional VC funding route. This is because VC funding leads to a high risk approach where people are seen as cogs in the machine.

“I don't understand how these high growth, high risk companies can attract people to them,” Rand said. “Who wants to work in an environment where it's like, okay, ‘now probably next year, we'll be out of business and have no jobs.’ What a pitch as an employee!”

Fortunately, other investment models can put your employees first – not your business growth. When you create a beneficial atmosphere for your workers, you’ll often see your team members’ output and happiness will increase. That’s what we found at Buffer when we transitioned to a four-day work week in 2020.

Your employees’ well being should be a huge factor in how you approach your business growth as they’re essentially the heart of your company.

Staying true to your vision and higher purpose

Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s community of businesses turned down what many would consider an offer of a lifetime – opening up a store in Disney World. If he had pursued the offer, it’s safe to assume this would create a world of opportunities for Zingerman’s. Yet, for Ari and his business partner Paul Saginaw, the decision to pass on one of the biggest companies in the world wasn’t difficult at all.

“The longest part of the conversation was how the [Disney team] wanted to explain to me why I wasn't understanding how great of an opportunity it was,” Ari said. “And I tried to say, ‘I’m honored that you're asking – it's a really great compliment. But it doesn't fit our vision.’ And finally, at the end, I just said, ‘if you want to open a Disney in Ann Arbor then we could talk.’”

You may be a bit confused as to why exactly Ari chose not to partner with Disney. The entrepreneur practices visioning, that is, laying out clear goals of what success looks like for Zingermans, and he sticks to those goals when considering all business opportunities.

Ari always knew he wanted to open up a community of businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan specifically. Opening up a store in Disney World and venturing out of Michigan would mean straying from his initial vision, which is why it was so easy for him to say no to the offer.

By sticking to these values, Ari has learned not to be reactive when making decisions, but intentional instead. He believes this has allowed him to keep his community at the forefront. While he does acknowledge this approach can lead to limitations, he believes these are good limitations to have.

“And theres problems that go with [turning down big money] — you're constrained. But it's the constraints of your choosing, and you're choosing to make your art in a way you feel really good about,” Ari said.

Understanding your business’s higher purpose is essential when considering accepting money from investors. Holly believes that all entrepreneurs need to thoroughly assess who they talk money from, especially because this decision could mean releasing control over their vision.

“What people tend to overlook when they are in the fundraising process is that they should be vetting the investors themselves,” Holly said. “You still want to understand if there's mutual respect for values, and especially if there's mutual respect for your vision of where the company is going.”

All of these companies – Buffer, Harlow, Zingerman’s, and Paynter Jacket – turned down big money offers and are thriving to this day, proving that money isn’t always the answer when growing your business.

Want more on turning down big money? Check out the full episode.

The businesses we interviewed in this episode have further insights to share about turning down big money and its value for brands. Check out the full episode here.

https://buffer.com/resources/turning-down-money-business/

How These Small Businesses Cultivate Community

🖊️
Small Business, Big Lessons is a podcast from Buffer that goes behind the scenes with inspirational small businesses to explore how they are questioning the best ways to build a business and uncover the big lessons we can learn from their journeys (so far). Check out the first episode here.

How These Small Businesses Cultivate Community

Building and managing a community has become a major piece of the successful small business puzzle for good reason — customers want it. Sixty-four percent of online community visitors say they’re visiting those sites more often, and 46 percent say the sites have become more important to them over time. This shows that digital spaces have become just as important as physical ones as more people interact online than ever. Creating that space in a meaningful way is vital for brands that want to connect with their audience.

We’ve written about how to build a meaningful community for your business. Now, we want to share precisely how different businesses build community around their brands with the hope that it will inspire you. In this companion piece to the first episode of Small Business, Big Lessons Season 2, we break down the most significant learnings about community from small business owners who have built theirs successfully.

Extending company culture to the audience

Part of the purpose of building a community around your brand is to extend your values and culture to the people that are meant to benefit from your product — the people you want to help.

Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a consultancy that provides entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow their businesses while staying true to their purpose. She has used a culture-first approach to consultancy and adopts the following analogy when thinking about community.

“We want to think about company culture as the soil […] It provides all of the nourishment, it provides the stability, it is the foundation,’ shares Holly.

Of course, extending company culture and values to external parties relies on knowing what those look like in the first place. Values are very important to us at Buffer, and the same rings true for the businesses we interviewed in this episode.

On identifying your company values and tying them to company culture, Holly says, “…ensure that your values are clearly defined and that nobody else defines your values for you. [Values] have to come from our own personal internal motivations. They can't be something that we [outsource to a] focus group.”

People aren’t islands and will always need a community of some sort to get by. Ari Weinzweig, co-founder and CEO at Zingerman’s understands that, saying, “We're all products of a community. And so understanding that, we can either be passive about the community, or we can embrace that that's the reality and then try to make it as healthy as possible. …the healthier the community, the healthier we are, and [vice versa].”

Involve your team in community and culture building

You can’t extend your company culture without involving your employees. If your culture internally isn’t great, if your employees don’t buy in — it’ll be hard to get that out to an audience.

“The internal company culture and the external community should mirror each other […] I like to say employees can't deliver an experience they don't receive. So if we're selling this experience to our community we want to make sure we're delivering the same experience internally,” shares Holly Howard.

The idea of creating a great internal culture that feeds into your external community is corroborated by Kelly Phillips, co-founder of restaurant collective Destination Unknown, who actively transformed the service staff culture at her restaurants.

Kelly shares that at Destination Unknown restaurants, to offer workers a stable income, the company uses a professional wage model where full-time workers are offered a salary with a bonus incentive. This differs from a traditional wage model where workers don't know what they're going to make as their pay is based on tips that leave servers at the mercy of guests. Workers are also incentivized by a bonus structure which is a monthly bonus based on good reviews.

Kelly reports that turning the traditional idea of how service jobs are paid in the US on its head has led to amazing results. “The company has noticed a better quality of life for people and better teamwork. Servers are helping each other because they want to get good reviews because that's what their bonus is based on. And because they’re not as concerned with tipping, they can focus on providing guests with outstanding service that keeps them coming back.”

🖊️
Kelly has written further on the Buffer blog about putting employees first. Read it here.

Bake community into the fabric of your company identity

From fitness to web3, some spaces rely on community to succeed from the jump. If you’re in an industry where your potential customers rely on collaboration with others either for education or networking, community should be part of your company identity.

Samantha Anderl and Andrea Wildt had a vision for the target audience of Harlow, a freelance management tool, before they even began building their product. So it made perfect sense to them to cultivate that community before they even started developing their tools.


For the Harlow founders, they knew they wanted to build a product that would solve their audience’s problems. So instead of focusing on what they wanted to build, they went to their community and asked ‘what problems do you need help solving?’

“…the best way to understand [customers’ problems], for any organization, is to be deeply connected to your community. So it just made sense for us to start connecting with freelancers early on in order to get that feedback to ensure that we're building what they needed,” shared Andrea.

Huw Thomas, the co-founder of Paynter Jacket, agrees with this sentiment and tacks on extra advice for thinking about building a community-first brand. “…the best advice I have for building a community is building it before you're even ready. Before you have a product before you have launched, start building it. Start with family and friends, get them signed up, and then get their family and friends signed up and build it on Instagram, or whatever social media platform that you're comfortable with.”

When your audience knows that they can trust you for whatever reason, whether that’s authority or expertise, or even sentiment, it’s easier to convince them to buy or engage with your product.

Samantha agrees saying, “We really want to build trust early on. If you build authority with your community, the more likely that community is to want to take a leap of faith and try out what you're offering or share your story. We'd been building connections and meaningful relationships … when we finally did launch, we had a bunch of people cheering us on and being really excited about what we're building and what we're trying to help solve.”

Curate a fanbase by building in public

We’re avid advocates of building in public and have been talking about it, and doing it ourselves, for years now. This is because we understand how valuable it can be for companies and their audience. Some companies have found success sharing every aspect of how they are building with their audience – Paynter, which sells clothing in limited-release collections called Batches, is one of them.

🖊️
Fun fact: Paynter spoke to us about building in public in Season 1 of the podcast and an upcoming episode in Season 2. Subscribe and stay tuned for the latter!

Becky Okell, co-founder of Paynter shares, “It's really easy to mix up having an audience with having a community, but we think that they are two really different things, you can have a community and feel so part of something. And I think it's all about how engaged you are with that brand or that business.”

And although the audience for a clothing company might not naturally blossom into a community the way a fitness brand might, Becky emphasized the value of putting in the effort anyway. “As an online clothing brand, [community] is not going to happen unless we really invest, try, and work for it. [But] building a community for us was super important [and] working in public was a huge part of doing that.”

Paynter’s strategy of attracting fans and community by building in public continues to bear fruit. Their audience is constantly engaged and sells out each collection of their jackets within minutes.

The brand also actively takes steps to engage its community with frequent in-person meetups held in different cities around the world. This allows them to be present in their community and extend it beyond clothing.

Create authentic connections by putting your personality front-and-center

Solo, small business owners have an opportunity to connect with their audience based on the strength of their personality alone. Azikiwee “Z” Anderson, head baker and owner of Rize Up bakery in San Francisco, California, is a passionate advocate for putting your whole self into your business.

Z shares, “The purpose behind my businesses the same purpose that is behind me, which is trying to make the world a better place. This is one of the first things I've ever done where I really feel seen, like my individuality resonates with people and that they're excited to follow my story – it's very freeing.”

Connecting with people by showing them the real people behind the brand and letting them know about your passion for what you do and how you operate can deepen your connection with them.

Solving problems and being creative comes as naturally to Z as making great bread. He says about creating content for Rize Up, “A majority of the stuff that I put up is not really preconceived – I'm having a good time and so I show people what I'm doing.”

Go beyond online spaces to meet your audience face-to-face

Meeting in person is an invaluable way to create deeper connections with your audience. We’ve interviewed companies that do this as part of their community building, and the podcast interviewees are no strangers to the value of face-to-face interactions.

Sheena Russell is the founder and CEO of Made with Local, a Canadian snack foods company that has social impact baked in. She credits the community found by setting up at farmers’ markets in the early years of the company with the deep understanding and connection the brand has with its customers.

Sheena looks back at their farmer’s market days fondly and shares, “the market research that we could do with all those customers that came by was invaluable. I think we [now] have a clear view of exactly who our customers are at Made with Local. I don't think we'd be where we are today without having that foundation built of deep community connection.”

And Z agrees that in-person interaction is powerful for building community. “It's the easiest way to connect directly with people and have interactions where you matter to them and they matter to you…And so I wanted to be a part of that. And I wanted it to be a major part of what we do.”

Becky and Huw have also found ways to take their online clothing brand to offline spaces. They kicked off “Paynter at the Pub” as an anti-Black Friday event. “we thought instead of having a sale or trying to sell anything, let's just bring people together. And let's do it physically this time, it'd be so nice not just for us to meet our customers but for our customers to meet each other.” They made it open to absolutely everyone in their community, not just customers.

Meeting their community in person was really powerful for the Paynter co-founders, “ It was just really special to put faces to names, to have a really good chat [and] for customers to meet each other. ”

Shine the spotlight on the community — not the business

Community should be about the people within it — make it all about profit or your business, and you risk driving them away. And the best way to understand what your community needs from you is by listening to them, insist Harlow’s founders.

“We've really learned how important it is to start by listening,” says Samantha, “and to start by advocating and by honestly just being selfless. So you have to give to get when you're first building your community. It's so important upfront to establish that trust and that authority. And you really can't do that unless you spend the time listening.”

Andrea follows up, adding, “I feel like I can't stress that enough – that you can't go into building community, just from the perspective of ‘what am I going to get out of it?’ It really does need to be more of a selfless act of ‘how can I connect? How can I listen? How can I help? What resources can I provide?’ And that's where I think you're able to build the more robust and meaningful connections with people.”

Want more on cultivating communities? Check out the full episode.

The businesses we interviewed in this episode have further insights to share about community building and its value for brands. Check out the full episode here. And for practical steps on setting up a community for your own business, see this full-length guide to community management.

https://buffer.com/resources/cultivate-community-business/

Introducing Season 2 of Small Business, Big Lessons — a Buffer Original Series

Introducing Season 2 of Small Business, Big Lessons — a Buffer Original Series

We encounter a lot of incredible small businesses regularly at Buffer. Last year, we had the chance to highlight eight of them in season one of a new Buffer original series — Small Business, Big Lessons.

We’re happy to share that the series is back! So start listening to Small Business, Big Lessons Season 2 wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll release a new episode every Tuesday for the next six weeks.

In this series, we’re bringing you business stories like you’ve never heard before. We’re going behind the scenes with inspirational small businesses to explore how they’re questioning the best ways to build a business and uncover the big lessons we can learn from their journeys so far.

This series includes interviews with:

Last season, we heard from innovative entrepreneurs using their businesses to redefine how great work happens.

This season, we’ll hear from innovative small business owners building communities, turning down big money, and proving it’s possible to build a successful business while doing good along the way. We’ll talk to an incredible group of entrepreneurs who prove that you can run a successful small business on your terms.

You’ll hear uplifting and inspiring stories from a new group of incredible business owners and a few familiar voices from season one, and you’ll gain insight from us here at Buffer.

Be sure to subscribe to Small Business, Big Lessons wherever you get your podcasts, and you’ll be the first to hear about new episodes as soon as they’re released.

https://buffer.com/resources/season-2-small-business-big-lessons/

5 Small Businesses to Support this Hispanic Heritage Month

5 Small Businesses to Support this Hispanic Heritage Month

Every year, the U.S. observes Hispanic Heritage Month from September to October. The celebration got its start in California when congressman George. E. Brown introduced legislation to create a week acknowledging the positive contributions of the Hispanic community. That same year, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed September 17, 1968, as Hispanic Heritage Week.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan extended the holiday, declaring September 15 – October 15th Hispanic Heritage Month. There is significance to these dates as September 15 marks the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Hispanic Heritage Month provides an opportunity to honor individuals of Hispanic descent as well as highlight their culture, traditions, and impact. Today, almost five million businesses in the United States are Hispanic-owned and bring in more than $800 billion dollars each year. Most small businesses have limited resources, making your support crucial. When you buy from these brands, not only are you stimulating the economy, but you’re making it possible for these mom-and-pop shops to stay afloat.

We wanted to highlight five small Hispanic-owned businesses that are providing innovative products and services as well as ushering in more representation in their respective industries.

Bonita Fierce Candles is creating candles inspired by Hispanic culture

Melissa Gallardo, a Salvadoran-American, created her own brand in 2020 called Bonita Fierce Candles. The small business creates scented candles with distinct aromas that Melissa grew up around. Her candle range includes a variety of warming and calming scents, including ‘cafecito con leche,’ which is inspired by Latin American coffee, ‘coquito,’ a scent reminiscent of traditional Puerto Rican eggnog, and ‘abuelas bakery,’ a candle meant to make you nostalgic for home.

On the company’s website, Melissa discusses how she’s struggled in the past to connect with her heritage but found solace with the Latin American community after she graduated college. When the pandemic hit soon after, she began making candles as a quarantine hobby and realized most candles on the market did not represent the various scents she grew up with, which led her to open up Bonita Fierce Candles as a way to celebrate Latina heritage at home.

For the rest of Hispanic Heritage Month, Bonita Fierce Candles is offering twenty percent off its products along with free shipping.

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Alter Eco’s chocolate is fighting back against climate change

Alter Eco is a small business that is revolutionizing the chocolate industry. Their slogan is “the cleanest, greenest chocolate,” as the company’s mission is to create food that nourishes the Earth rather than depleting it. They work on small-scale fair trade farms, practice dynamic forestry, which can mitigate climate change, and launched the world’s first commercially compostable candy wrapper in 2013, to name just a few of their many sustainable practices.

While the brand has a range of chocolate products and also sells quinoa and granola, they created new limited edition items with A Dozen Cousins in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month: hot cocoa bombs. The product can be bought in two flavors, Mexican Hot Chocolate and White Chocolate Coquito.

In a newsletter announcing the collaboration, Alter Eco’s CEO Arnulfo Ventura reminisced on his own childhood, “Growing up my mom cooked dishes native to her hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. When we were lucky, the aroma of simmering Mexican hot cocoa filled the kitchen.”

Alter Eco is donating all proceeds from this collaboration to hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.

TOA Waters is shaking up the bubble bath industry

Most bubble bath products contain floral scents, something Javier Folgar wanted to change. As someone who takes bubble baths himself, the entrepreneur is on a mission to end the social stigma around men enjoying baths, which led to the creation of his small business, Toa Waters. The company is named after a Cuban river – a nod to Javier’s heritage.

Tao Waters bubble baths come in a variety of bold scents, including teakwood, rum, sandalwood, and tobacco. All of the products are vegan and made with organic and responsibly sourced ingredients. Customers can feel extra good about supporting this brand as the small business has partnered with several deserving causes, including the American Cancer Society. They’ve also donated ten percent of proceeds from their Sweet Temptation line to the Ukrainian red cross.

El Comalito is serving authentic Salvadorian food

Pupuseria El Comalito is an artisanal Salvadorian pupuseria, or tortilla shop, with several locations throughout Maryland. They prepare their food with a traditional cooking process from El Salvador, making their cuisine authentic and delicious. Silvia Huezo is the current owner of the pupuseria and inherited the business from her parents. She immigrated to the United States with her family when she was only six years old.

By the time she was in high school, her mom and dad had opened up the first location of the restaurant. Now, all these years later, the family owns four locations, and their food has been a staple for the Salvadoran community in Maryland.

Silvia was interviewed by a local Maryland business association in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and said she was happy to take on her parent’s legacy. She also spoke about what it’s like being a Latina entrepreneur. “One of the things that I am most proud of as a Latina is our resilience and tenacity,” she said. “Our unwavering disposition to never give up! Whether it’s unstable political climates in our homelands, poverty, lack of acceptance … we continue to get up, dust off and carry on.”

El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil is passing down traditions through the arts

El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil, translated to The Student Folkloric Ballet, is a nonprofit organization in Michigan that preserves Mexican culture and educates its students on Mexican folkloric dance and music. The Ballet then performs these very dances throughout Michigan, bringing more cultural awareness to the community. They also provide private and group lessons for students wanting to learn instruments.

The organization’s goal is not only to help students embrace their heritage, but to also provide them with structured community programs that can help them become well-rounded individuals. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Ballet performed at a local community center on October 7th.

5 Small Businesses to Support this Hispanic Heritage Month

We love highlighting diverse voices at Buffer and appreciate all the good these five brands are doing, all while staying true to their roots. Remember, these businesses deserve your support beyond Hispanic Heritage Month, but all year round.

While purchasing their products is the most impactful way to help these small businesses, there are other ways to show your support, like sharing these brands with your friends and family on social media and leaving reviews for their products and services.

What small businesses are you supporting this Hispanic Heritage Month? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram!

https://buffer.com/resources/small-businesses-hispanic-heritage-month/

Social Proof: Katelyn Bourgoin on Knowing Your Audience

Social Proof: Katelyn Bourgoin on Knowing Your Audience

Welcome to the sixth and final (for now) installment of Social Proof with Katelyn Bourgoin. Katelyn is an entrepreneur and creator who’s built several companies and agencies and even sold one successfully.

She’s currently working as the CEO and Lead Trainer at Customer Camp, a company dedicated to helping its clients better understand buyer psychology. Her wealth of experience in marketing and customer research has earned her the nickname of ‘Customer Whisperer’.

In this interview, we talk about how she grew her personal brand, with a newsletter called Why We Buy that has an audience of 10,000 people and a Twitter account with eight times that number.

🖊️
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

Q: I’m so excited to have you on for Social Proof, Katelyn! What do you think about personal branding in general? And would you even call what you have a personal brand?

Yes, I would call it a personal brand. I wasn't very intentional about building a personal brand initially. What I knew was that I wanted to expand my audience beyond Atlantic Canada, which is where I'm based and where most of my clients are. But I didn't want to be beholden to only working with companies from one region, so it made sense for me to work on building an audience beyond.

I chose Twitter as my first platform because I like writing there – and I do some on LinkedIn now too. But I never went into it necessarily thinking, “I need a personal brand.”

I just started sharing things that I thought were interesting and interacting with people I admired and thought were interesting. I found that it was such a fun place to both create content and meet people that I just started spending more time there. The audience was growing and then eventually was like, “Oh snap, I think I have a personal brand.”

Q: There's often so much fighting for our attention, which must be even more prominent for you running a company, publishing on LinkedIn and Twitter, and writing a newsletter. How do you balance all of those things? Do you adopt a consistent voice across all your channels and cross-post content with a focus on one over another, or do you have a strategic approach for each channel?

It's a mix that started with boosting traffic for our business. For example, initially, I wasn't working with sponsors or doing any revenue-generation with my newsletter. I wanted to grow the email list, but I was using it as a channel to get the audience to discover the other parts of our business. I was also working on growing my social media following to grow awareness of the company more broadly. But I would say that since deciding to focus on growing the newsletter, I've become much more intentional about my social channels than before.

Where before I stuck to the same topic of customer research because that’s our main product, now I'm finding that I want to create something more like a hub and spoke model that more broadly covers buyer psychology. So I’m educating the newsletter’s audience on buyer psychology and then on why they need to do customer research on their own customer base.

Q: You already mentioned that it was the need to find customers outside your immediate region that led to you focusing on growing a personal brand. So chicken or egg question: would you say that it was a need to grow your business that led you to social media, or did social media inspire your business ideas?

There are opportunities that I have now because of growing my social that I never considered a possibility. I knew that building my social would allow me to open doors that may not have been open to me before.

Social Proof: Katelyn Bourgoin on Knowing Your Audience

But like with the newsletter, for instance, I never thought about growing my social so that I could one day have a newsletter that could become a revenue-generating asset for my business, but because I have the social channels and following. I knew at a high level that it would open up doors, but I didn’t know exactly what doors would open. It’s been a fantastic surprise to see it all evolve.

Q: Which of the channels you work with have been the most valuable for growing your personal brand?

I would say they each play a role. Twitter's definitely the place where I have invested the most time and energy. And because of that, most of my newsletter growth comes from there in the sense that it's someone finding the newsletter through Twitter and then recommending it there as well.

Then the newsletter allows me to deepen the connection with those people from Twitter because I get to have this amazing spot in their inbox every week where I get their full attention, as opposed to being in the feed where there are lots of other things competing for attention.

I’m fortunate to have both, and I'd much rather interact with my audience on Twitter than respond back and forth via email – I think it's more fun for us. The conversations are more effortless and casual. I think that the two are used in different ways but are also symbiotic. They work together.

Q: There is a question I like to ask which is can you define your personal brand in three words/phrases/terms?

I've given some thought to this because I used to own a branding agency. So we're very intentional about my brand, the Why We Buy brand. I want people to think about me in three words: ‘geeky’, ‘fun’, ‘marketer’.

Social Proof: Katelyn Bourgoin on Knowing Your Audience

I get excited about the nerdy parts of marketing – buyer psychology and understanding people, but I also want to make it fun. I want to make it fun for me, and I want to make it fun for my audience. So I'd say if I had to sum it up, I'm a geeky marketer, but I really want it to be fun. I want the people learning about the sometimes dry and dull stuff that we teach to be entertained.

Q: You have the label “Customer Whisperer” in your Twitter bio, which is so interesting. Is that an intentional personal brand label or a nickname that came about because of your work?

Well, somebody called me that, so I didn't come up with it myself. We offer training [at Customer Camp], and typically we would do it through partners here in Atlantic Canada. And one of our partners works for an organization that supports a whole bunch of different styles of businesses and helps them to export outside of Canada. And she started introducing me to the workshop participants as the Customer Whisperer.

So I started using it, and I think it creates curiosity which is really important in marketing, but it also speaks to an evident desire that people have which is they want to have more customers, and they know that they need to understand them to be able to have more of them. I think that it just fits with everything that I want to be about.

Q: That’s a cool example of the power of social proof in your personal brand – everything you’ve been communicating leads people to the conclusion you want them to have of you and your brand. You've done a lot of work with branding and understanding the customer psyche. Has that impacted how you communicate yourself and the projects that you work on or your achievements?

Absolutely. I don't consider myself to be a super customer researcher or buyer psychology expert, but I consider myself to be more like someone geeky about it and always learning. Oftentimes the topics that we're talking about in the newsletter are presented like I have a high-level understanding. But really, we’re just learning about it ahead of teaching it to others. There’s a lot that I'm learning about only weeks before I'm sharing examples in my newsletter or on social.

I love learning about these topics and then testing them in our own business and seeing what works for us and what doesn't. It always makes me reflect back on our own marketing collateral or website or on messaging and see opportunities for optimization. We experiment and apply many of the principles we cover because our audience relies on our advice, and we want it to work for our customers.

Q: Can you paint a picture of actions you’ve taken for your personal brand as Katelyn Bourgoin and not necessarily as Katelyn of Customer Camp? And what opportunities have these actions gotten you?

I would say the most significant actions that have led to opportunities are engaging with people I admire.

When we were still producing our podcast, most of our guests came through the interactions and relationships I’d built on social. I’d been engaging with people whose careers I admired, like Rand Fishkin and Bob Moesta, not for any ulterior motives but because I admired them. So when I reached out to get them on the podcast, they said yes. Then when we got to meet on the podcast, because we had so many things that we were geeky about in common, we would just start talking, and that led to other opportunities to get to work together. Bob Moesta and I co-hosted an event together, and Rand Fishkin invited me to a founder retreat he was doing in Italy. All of this came from getting to first start with very small interactions on social and amplifying their work, supporting them, and getting excited about what they were doing, which then led to real offline friendships with people who I only ever dreamed that I would get to talk to.

The benefit for my personal brand was that the more I got to kind of be seen in association with these folks – authority figures in their industry – it acted as a form of social proof: Oh, Katelyn got Rand on her podcast, that's amazing, or oh, she's doing a webinar with Bob Moesta, she must know her stuff.

The reality is it just came from starting to build a network on social and then turning that into a quick conversation and being excited about the same things and then turning those into friendships.

Q: Would you say that Customer Camp relies on your personal brand a lot, or have you been able to separate the two? I ask this because in my research before this interview, I almost fell into the trap of constantly equating everything Katelyn with everything Customer Camp.

If you asked me this question two years ago, I would have said very wholeheartedly, “I'm a champion of Customer Camp, but at the end of the day, I want people to know it's bigger than me.” I had a larger team at the time. And so yes, people will associate me with the brand as the founder, but ultimately Customer Camp is what I want people to think of, and I want there to be a separation between us.

In the last two years, my life has changed in many unexpected ways, some good and some difficult. So we had a baby, but at the same time, my husband ended up having two unexpected surgeries and was unable to work and lift our son. That caused me to make some changes to the business, and I had some plans of how I was going to grow Customer Camp that I reevaluated and changed.

Now I'm actually in the process of focusing on growing Why We Buy as a media brand and me being the face of that. So I'm okay with people associating Why We Buy, our newsletter, with me because I plan to grow that asset, and I want to be the face of it in the same way that – and this is a crazy example I'm not comparing myself to him – Joe Rogan is the Joe Rogan Experience. You can't just pop him out and put somebody else in and have the company be the same. I want to do that with Why We Buy, but that wasn't always the plan.

Q: With everything we've discussed so far in mind, what would you do if you were starting your personal brand today? What platforms or mediums would you decide to go with?

I'd probably I would still do Twitter because it fits into my life and takes advantage of my personal strengths with short-form writing.

I might also consider TikTok, but I could see myself getting into the weeds and trying to make the most elaborate TikToks ever. But I've intentionally stayed away from it because I just don't need another thing to be addicted to.

And I would throw LinkedIn in there as well. The nice thing is that you can repurpose most of your Twitter content. While I haven't been as intentional with LinkedIn as I'm going to start being, I have been able to take years worth of content that I've been creating over on Twitter and modify it for LinkedIn.

Q: Have you experienced any downsides in building a personal brand?

I wrote a thread about this when I crossed 75,000 followers on Twitter, sharing seven lessons I've learned and five hard things that nobody tells you about but growing your audience.


For one, social media becomes addictive and not in a good way. You're constantly logging in and refreshing, waiting for more notifications – that's not good for your brain. It's not good for your relationships because like you're way too plugged into what's happening on your phone.

Also, as your audience grows, it becomes more challenging to respond to everything and interact with everyone. Sometimes, I get hundreds of notifications – thousands if a post goes viral. I used to be able to interact with everyone, answer every question, and respond to every comment. Now I'm missing things, and it's hard to ensure I've interacted with everybody.

You'll also start to have a lot more people reach out to you, asking questions, for advice, for your time, and often people who you've never interacted with before. I'd like to get to a place where I can respond to everyone, but I don't see how unless I hire somebody to start managing my personal account. I don't see how I could keep up with it all, especially as the audience keeps growing.

And the final thing I talked about in the post is you start to compare yourself to other people. You compare yourself to other creators. You see people that are growing faster than you that are putting out a lot more content than you, and you wonder how they can do it all because they have a busy life too.

Q: What would you recommend for someone that is trying to be intentional about not only building their own channels, whether that's publishing YouTube videos or writing a newsletter, but also trying to deepen the connection with their audience on social media?

I think you should go really deep into one channel and build an audience there, get good at creating content for that platform, and understand what works with your audience on that platform. Once you have an audience – and it doesn't need to be a big audience – it might be time to get started getting people to sign up for a newsletter. Focus on publishing that newsletter every two weeks and getting your Twitter following to allow you in their inbox.

Social Proof: Katelyn Bourgoin on Knowing Your Audience

What I think that people struggle with is they try to be on too many platforms at once with a too-small team. If you have a larger team, it makes sense for you to be across these different channels. But for many companies, they've got one marketer, and they're expecting them to post to Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Tiktok.

Show up in their attention, and then get their trust enough that they'll come to where you are and actually get value over in your place.

Q: Finally, I’d love to pull on the thread of going all in and direct that to the topic of picking a niche. Would you say that focusing on customer research and buyer psychology was a valid initial approach for your content?

It depends on what you're talking about and who your audience is. For Twitter, I was really focused on understanding the customer – that was the thing I wanted people to associate with me. But I also identified my sub-topics in offering marketing tips and generally sharing things from my personal life. I’m very intentional about staying on topic, but I pepper in other things to see the response.

With the newsletter, I tried to avoid a mistake I often see others make. They will pick a topic that aligns with the service that they offer or the products that they sell, but their audiences aren’t interested in reading about it every day. Or one that is only relevant to them when they're doing a relevant project. I've seen people launch newsletters on writing sales pages, and it's like, that's a newsletter that people are gonna sign up for when they have to write a sales page. And then, three weeks later, they're not going to open your emails anymore because it's not relevant.

So in my case, I could have written my whole newsletter about customer research, but in most companies, customer research is a project and not something they do every day. It's not something that they always care about. But buyer psychology is something that, regardless of what you're working on, it's going to be relevant whether you're designing a new landing page or whether you're trying to convince your boss to give you a raise.

When it comes to people's newsletters or YouTube shows, you want to grow an audience that's going to come back to you week after week. You want to make sure that the topic that you talk about is something that is going to be consistently relevant to them.

Takeaways

Katelyn’s experience building a personal brand has evolved with her growth as an entrepreneur. She’s become so well-known for her knowledge in buyer psychology and customer research that she earned the nickname “Customer Whisperer.” Here are some of the top takeaways from our interview with Katelyn about building a personal brand that speaks for itself:

  • Pick a niche that has lasting relevance: Katelyn’s – and Customer Camp’s – expertise and service is in customer research. But both the founder and the company are known for a deep understanding of customer psychology – a broader topic that has relevance regardless of whether the audience needs their service or not. Try to find topics that your audience will always come back to you for, regardless of whether they need your services immediately or not.
  • Start with one channel and work your way up from there: As Katelyn said, people often try to be on too many platforms at once but end up being spread too thin. Grow an audience and develop trust on one platform – then carry them over to other channels as you evolve your personal brand.
  • Adopt cross-posting for your personal brand: A sentiment we also heard from Jack Appleby is that you should be repurposing content across your social media platforms. It saves you time and is an easy way to connect with a new audience using content you’ve already created.

🔌 Do you want to build deep relationships with your audience and show off your expertise? Start publishing consistently to your chosen channels with Buffer today.

https://buffer.com/resources/social-proof-katelyn-bourgoin/

How I Built a 200,000-Person Paid Membership Community With $0 in the Bank to Start

How I Built a 200,000-Person Paid Membership Community With $0 in the Bank to Start

If I could give one piece of advice about the best way to start a successful community, it would be to build the one you need yourself.

I launched Tech Ladies for selfish reasons. I worked in tech but didn’t have many women colleagues, and I wanted to build a network that could help me grow and weather any job change. Also, it was fun and validating to meet other women facing the same issues I did at work.

Turns out, so many other people felt the same way at work too. As one of the first communities for all women in tech, not just engineers, Tech Ladies had a wide pool of potential members, and they started showing up in droves. Our community was adding hundreds of new people each week without any paid advertising.

Over the past six years, Tech Ladies has continued to grow steadily with very little money spent on acquisition (which was especially important given I made the decision to bootstrap my company instead of seeking outside funding). With over 200,000 members, we’re now one the largest communities of women in tech. And more importantly, we’ve had a measurable impact on the lives of our members, helping them land jobs, grow in their careers, and find support they might not have access to at work.

The strategies that got my community here weren’t complicated—most of them I could implement myself while building the company from my couch. They just involved a deep dedication to and understanding of the people I was here to serve.

Here are four simple approaches that worked for me while building my community on a budget.

1. I made it easy to join and tempting to stay

When building a community, it’s not enough to bring members in; you also have to know how to keep them.

To think through this, I did a lifecycle analysis of my target member. I started by asking myself: Why would someone join Tech Ladies? I knew most people came to us through the job board when they were searching for their next opportunity, and given that was our biggest acquisition path, I wanted to keep the job board free and easy to access. We simply require people to sign up for a free account to start applying, which also subscribes them to our newsletter.

If I had just left the community at that, members would churn as soon as they got a job, maybe returning in a few years when they’re ready for a new role. So, I asked myself, what would make someone stick around? My thinking was, at any point in a person’s career, they need help with something—how could we provide exactly what they need at every step?

This inspired me to add a free community forum, where people can ask for help when they’re stuck on something at work. It also encouraged me to make sure the events we hosted weren’t only about networking for job searchers, but also focused on other topics that would help members grow their careers. This exercise also helped me see the potential for adding a paid membership tier—with even more learning resources and networking opportunities—for members who wanted a deeper investment in their career.


Thanks to this exercise, many of our members have been around for years and years. And when they see the value they get from the community, they refer others, making this customer lifecycle a flywheel that helps Tech Ladies keep on growing.

2. I integrated the community with my members’ habits

To keep community engagement high, I looked for repeatable ways to help us become a part of our members’ daily lives.

In the very early days, this was our job drop email. We were posting new jobs to the community daily, but by rounding them up and branding them as “Job Drop Tuesdays,” we had a feature members looked forward to every week. We check in with our paid community weekly with a “goals and wins” post that everyone can contribute to. And we’ve always been mindful of having a regular cadence of events.

This repeatable content has been really key in terms of building relationships and thought leadership with our members. Think about it: With the weekly emails alone, members hear from us 52 times a year and start to think of us as the place to go for fresh job listings. The weekly community posts and regular events became an easy way members could engage with each other and be reminded of the value we offer.  

Key to this approach is ease and choosing activities that my team could feasibly deliver on a regular cadence. A mistake I see a lot of communities make is over-promising and under-delivering: For instance, throwing one massive event and then getting busy and never having another event again. I found it’s better to start small with something we could really stick to so our members never feel like we’re letting them down.

3. I aligned my incentives with the community

As a business owner, my incentive is to make money—at least enough to support myself, to pay my team, and to grow the business. But I never want members to feel like we’re constantly trying to upsell them on the paid membership tier. In fact, that’s a fast way to compromise the health and integrity of the community.

So we built a revenue model that functions no matter how a member engages with the community. Obviously, it’s great if someone joins as a paid member, because they offer direct revenue to the company. But a free member who finds a job through us is also valuable—it’s a win for our hiring partners and encourages them to keep renewing with us year after year. People who contribute to the community make it more valuable for everyone and may refer someone new to join Tech Ladies.

Ultimately, there are so many ways members can benefit our community and our company, I’ve found it doesn't serve us to obsess about who’s going to pay us and when. By creating multiple revenue streams, we’ve made it easier to focus on supporting our community in exactly the ways they need so they’re excited to keep supporting us back.

4. I’ve always stayed obsessed with what my members want

Yes, I started Tech Ladies because it was the community I needed personally. But it turns out the best way to build the community was by setting aside my own needs, wants, and vision being obsessed with what my members truly want.

My team does user research constantly. Sometimes it's formal: Sending out a survey asking members what they’d like to see from us, or doing A/B tests on new features to see what people interact with. But, more often than not, this simply involves staying engaged in our own community and paying attention. What are the topics that pop up in the community most often? Which events have the highest attendance rate, and how can we build on those topics?

This is how we came up with the idea to launch a Leadership Accelerator. We saw over and over that once members got jobs, they often struggled to continue growing. We just launched the first accelerator cohort this fall and plan to continue working with our members to hone how we can best support them through this next step in their career growth.

In other words, the obsession with learning from our community never stops. We launch something new, we learn more, we tweak our approach or come up with fresh ideas to offer our members. Rinse, repeat—and watch the Tech Ladies community continue to grow and thrive for years to come.

Want to learn more of my growth strategies? Subscribe to my newsletter, Bootstrap to Millions (with Allison), for more regular advice and stories from Tech Ladies’ growth.

https://buffer.com/resources/how-i-built-a-200-000-person-paid-membership-community-with-0-in-the-bank/

Cultural Spotlights: Morocco

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Learning about experiences and perspectives that are different from our own supports our journey of inclusion by reducing bias, building respect and increasing empathy, while providing an opportunity to celebrate our differences and similarities.

At Buffer, we regularly share cultural spotlights from colleagues to connect our global team, and help us understand one another at a deeper level.

– Katie, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Manager @ Buffer

Cultural Spotlights: Morocco

Here’s a slightly edited version of a cultural spotlight we recently highlighted from Ismaïl, a Product Designer at Buffer.

I am 9,762 days old. I spent every day of my life in Morocco. I was born in a Ksar, a fortified village called "Zaouit Sidi Ali,” one of the 360 Kasrs in Er-Rissani.

People from my village used to live by farming – they spent all their days taking care of their date palm trees, and they ate and sold the date fruits to buy the basics of life, such as food, water, and clothes.

After years of droughts and when I was four, my extended family of 18 members moved 60 miles to Errachidia. It was one of my family's big moves to look for a better future with more work opportunities and better education for their children.

Here’s more about life in Morocco from education and religion to greetings and food.

Cultural Spotlights: Morocco
Zaouit Sidi Ali in Er-Rissani in Morocco

Family life

In Moroccan culture, family relationships are the most important component of social life. I lived my whole life with my extended family in a shared home. In our culture, it is thought that sons should only leave the house to work. Even though I am living on my own in Casablanca right now with my brother, all my family still live together in Errachidia.

While I was a child, I had been sharing a room with my brother and two cousins, I rarely felt alone. I always felt a great sense of family and community. Women usually stay home and take care of children while men spend their day outside working. Everyone was taking care of each other. We believe that the bigger the family, the more people there are to take care of you, and the better off you are.

Education

The education system in Morocco comprises pre-school, primary, secondary, and tertiary levels.  At that time, no one in my family had an education degree. My father and uncles had only been to primary school, my mother and aunts had never been to school, they learned the basics of Arabic writing and reading from the mosque, where they used to memorize the Quran.

My family was very aware of the importance of education, they always said they had no chance at their age, and they won’t let the same thing happen to their children. I grew up seeing every one of them working very hard to make sure we went to school and had everything we needed.

Like the majority of children my age, I attended a public school, where corporal punishment was a normal thing. Primary school was not easy, teachers have the authority to punish and discipline students. On the other hand, complaining to parents would not change anything as they believe punishment is the only way to get children to focus on their education.

Secondary school was a little far from my home, I used to walk for half an hour to get there. It is not long compared to many children in remote areas who used to walk for 1-2 hours to get to school.

The majority of Moroccan universities are free of charge, attending a good one requires good marks in addition to passing an exam. Most students receive education funds to pay for their studies except the ones from wealthy families. While I was still living with my family, I spent all the money on my English courses.

I attended The Faculty of Sciences and Techniques in Errachidia and got my bachelor's in software engineering. I moved to Casablanca to get my software engineering diploma at ENSETM.

Everyday life

Life in Morocco depends on which city or region you are living in, growing up in Errachidia is different from growing up in Casablanca. The first has a slow lifestyle, while the second has a rapid one.

I grew up in an environment where relationships are everywhere, our neighbors are close friends, and they are part of the family. Whenever they need bread, salt, an onion…they knock on the door and kindly ask if we happen to have any of these items.

Living in a country with many challenges teaches us what it means to be a resilient person who is happy with less and isn’t bothered by discomforts. No matter how rich you may become, you always appreciate what you have and understand everything can be taken from you anytime.

The diversity of Moroccan land

Most people think that Morocco is only dunes of sand and camels (which are really beautiful by the way), this mistaken belief could be coming from the movie, Road to Morocco which represents Morocco as a desert country. The truth is, most of Morocco’s territory is occupied by vast mountain ranges, with the Atlas Mountains stretching from the central north to the southwest of the country.

Overall, Morocco gets plenty of sun all year round, but it has a variety of weather patterns. The desert is hot and dry. The coastal plains have mild temperatures. In the summer, the mountains are hot and dry. In the winter, they are cold, rainy, and often snowy.

Fun fact: In Morocco, You may be skiing in the North while the temperature is -5°c, but you can swim or surf the next day down South at 27°c.

Religion

Almost all Moroccans are Muslim and Islam is the state religion. A small number of people are Christian. An even smaller minority are Jewish. The kingdom of Morocco is one of the oldest monarchies in the world, It was founded 12 centuries ago. The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, is referred to as "Amir El Mouminin," or leader of the faithful. While the motto of Morocco is "God, Fatherland, the King."

The original name of Morocco was «Marrakesh» which in Berber language means “The land of God.” While Morocco is in Africa, it is only nine miles from Europe, which makes Morocco a mixture of races, with mostly Arabs and Berber.

Language

Generally speaking, between Moroccans in the streets, you will primarily hear Moroccan Darija and never Classical Arabic. Depending on where you are, you can also hear Amazigh language in the Berber areas and Hassani dialect in the south.

Unlike Classical Arabic, which is written and spoken, Moroccan Darija is only spoken. It is very flexible and dynamic, it contains some weird expressions that always makes me laugh, one of them is: "3tini wahed zouj bidat" the literal translation is "Give me one three eggs" but it means "Give me three eggs" not sure what the "one" is for. 😂

While a lot of Darija’s vocabulary comes from Arabic and Amazigh, many words have entered the language thanks to French, Spanish, and other languages.

French is spoken widely in Morocco, and you will have more facilities if you are a French speaker. Some locals speak Spanish in northwestern Morocco because of the Spanish culture's proximity and influence.

Fashion

Most people in Morocco wear ordinary clothing like much of the world wears. However, there are national costumes that are occasionally worn for holy days and celebrations. Some of them are:

Djellabas: a long loose dress with a hood and long sleeves, The fabric of the Djellaba changes according to the weather. During the summer, we wear light cotton-made Djellaba; during the winter, we wear a Djellaba made of wool to keep us warm. Men often fold the hood over the “tarbouche” (a small Moroccan red hat) and usually wear the “babouches,” a heelless slipper that is usually white or yellow.

Cultural Spotlights: Morocco
A Moroccan man wearing a Djellabas from Pexels

Kaftan: a world-widely famous dress worn by women for special occasions such as weddings or engagement parties. While it is very much decorated, it is pretty much like a djellaba without the hood.

Cultural Spotlights: Morocco
A moroccan girl wearing Kaftan from Unsplash

Weddings

Moroccan weddings are a wondrous occasion where all Moroccan traditions meet, including fashion, music, and food.

Have you been to a Moroccan wedding? I guess not. If you ever get the chance, though, don’t miss it. Just make sure you have three days to spare. That’s right, a traditional Moroccan wedding lasts three days and ends with the wildest party you can imagine.

One of the lovely things I like about Moroccan weddings is The Amariya, a traditional Moroccan chair made of wood or metal, ornamented with gold or silver. The chair allows the bride and groom to be presented to their guests during the wedding ceremony.

Food: my favorite part 😋

Moroccans generally have three meals per day. Breakfast might consist of tea, bread, olive oil, butter, and preserves, or a pancake-like food known as Baghrir.

Lunch is the largest meal of the day and Tagine is one of the most famous daily meals for it. It is a stew of meat (usually beef, lamb or chicken) or fish with vegetables, spices, and perhaps fruits and nuts, slowly cooked on a bed of oil in an earthenware pot.

Cultural Spotlights: Morocco
Moroccan Tagine from Unsplash

You might be asking how we eat this? I will answer that, but let me first tell you about “khobza,” our own style of bread. It’s a round flat loaf that is torn off in pieces and used to eat every meal. There are some exceptions, like Couscous which I will tell you about very soon.

In Morocco, the whole family eats from one big plate, and everyone uses their right hand. It’s called Tegomass. You grab a piece of bread to get some sauce, meat, and potatoes from the plate. The meat is usually at the center, and it is the last item you should eat. Everyone respect this order.

While eating, guests are usually encouraged to eat freely; this is a Moroccan way to show generosity.

Lunch also includes different dishes depending on the day, the occasion, or the season. some of them are:

  • Couscous: (the national dish of morocco) Many people think that Couscous is a daily meal in Morocco but that is wrong. Couscous is the main dish just on Fridays. Cooking couscous is a work of art, I have always admired seeing my mother making it. (Fun fact: I worked with a Moroccan company where we used to give couscous instead of tacos in Slack when complimenting colleagues).
  • Pastilla: one of the most luxurious Moroccan dishes. It is spiced pigeon meat encased in layers of flaky Warkha pastry, often dusted with sugar or cinnamon.
  • Tanjia: It is a pot made of puffed clay, and a meal of lamb or beef, with which the spices are mixed and cooked in the same pot and buried under hot ash.
  • Hergma: lamb and cow’s feet cooked with hot spices and hummus.

And there are many more including Rfissa, Hout, Kefta, Briouats, Bisara, and Chebakia.

Dinner in Morocco ranges from light to heavy meals, with soup, known as harira, and bread being common.

Moroccan tea

Moroccans are serious mint tea drinkers – we usually pour it from as high as you can. The cultural significance behind this is that the higher the tea is poured, the more welcomed your guests are. In addition, pouring the tea from a high distance creates little white foam bubbles that rest on top of the tea, and the idea is the more bubbles on top of the cup, the nicer the tea will look.

A famous Moroccan Proverb says: “When the stomach is full, it tells the head to sing.” I think that gives you an idea about what I will be telling you about next…yes, Music.

Music and dance

Moroccan Music is one of the fundamental aspects of Morocco’s culture. There are many different musical styles to be found, each one with its own history.

  • Andalusian Music: As the name suggests, Andalusian music comes from Andalusia, in Spain. It sounds like a blend of Arab and Spanish music and is performed with classical instruments.
  • Amazigh Music: it is called Ahidus. The music is expressed through collective dance and song and originated among tribes in the Middle and Eastern High Atlas.
  • Chaabi Music: it is a popularized folk genre that often comments on social issues and non-traditional themes. it mostly used at weddings
  • Gnawa Music: Songs are typically played using a three-string camel skin bass instrument (hajhouj), heavy castanets (krakebs), and religious chanting.

There are modern Moroccan music styles like Funk, Hiphop, Rock, Raï, and more.

One of the famous singers in Morocco is Saad Lamjarred. His hit song "Lm3allem" was the first Arabic song to surpass a billion views on YouTube.

In addition to the great diversity of melodies and rhythms, there is a strange musical instrument that adjusts the rhythm, draws attention, and provokes the desire to dance. I’ts name is "Al-Qa'dah". This video shows how it works in a beautiful dance competition with the Flamenco.

Fan fact: Al-Qa'dah is not only an instrument. It is a metal bowl for washing and cleaning clothes too.

Holidays and events

Morocco is a land of many festivals and holidays. There are even three New Years that are for everyone to celebrate. One is from the Gregorian Calendar, the other one is for the Amazigh New Year or Yennayer, and the last is the Islamic New Year, Fatih Muharram.

Moroccans celebrate secular and Muslim religious holidays. One major Muslim holiday is Eid al-Fitr. It is observed during the last three days of the fasting month, called Ramadan.

The other major Muslim holiday is Eid al-Adha. The anniversary of the event is described in the Quran. God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismail but provided a ram instead. Every household across Morocco sacrifices a sheep and eats it at a family meal during Eid al-Adha.

There are other national holidays that we celebrate. One of the most important ones is The Green March which liberated the Sahara from the Spanish occupation when King Hassan II called on all Moroccans to undertake a long march to the Kingdom's south.

Cost of living

If you have a roof over your head, enough food, an income that covers your needs, and maybe a bit more, then you are already blessed!

Whenever you ask a Moroccan about how they are doing, they will say “Alhamdulillah” or “Thank god!” then follow up with “Hssen mn chi w kfess mn chi” which means “Better Than Some, Worse Than Others.” No matter what problems you are dealing with, there are people who are dealing with worse. I have always felt that these words are full of hope and gratitude, while for others, it makes people find reasons to stay where they are and never try.

Morocco is not an expensive country. The amount of money you’ll spend here depends on the city you live in. Big cities like Casablanca are two to three times more expensive than smaller cities. Generally speaking, around $1,000 per month is a decent income for a household that does not count more than 4 members.

Souk: Millions of items … and no prices

I spent most of the summertime in the Souk (Moroccan market), helping my father with his small business selling kids toys. As an introverted person, it was always uncomfortable for me to be in this place. As a vendor, you are not supposed to wait for customers to come and buy. You have to invite them. You have to shout the prices as loud as you can. The more people can hear, the more chances you have that they will buy from you. It took me years to accept who I am and do it confidently.

Shopping in Moroccan Souks requires some real price negotiation skills. Negotiating is part of the Moroccan culture. It is a normal habit for the Moroccan people. Actually, no one accepts the first price in the Souk.

Moroccan Souk is the best place to get lost in. I always admired the Attar shop, the colorful dunes of spices, and their different smells.

Cultural Spotlights: Morocco
Attar shop in Marrakech – from Unsplash

Morocco is a cat country

When wandering the streets, you’re likely to encounter hundreds of stray cats everywhere you look. These cute critters are generally loved, fed, and taken care of by locals.

Most of the cats live on the street. The city is their home, and they are a well-integrated part of it. They have no fear of humans, they sit where they please in the middle of busy markets, and they look both ways before crossing the road.

Good luck counting street cats in Morocco!

Cultural Spotlights: Morocco
A cat in Chefchaouen from Unplash

Greetings

Moroccans shake hands during greetings and farewells. Close friends of the same sex commonly hug and exchange kisses on the cheeks. People of the opposite sex just shake hands. The most common greeting among Moroccans is the phrase "Al-salamu alaykum", which means "May peace be upon you." The response is Wa "alaykum al-salam", or "May peace be upon you also."

In Morocco, we have a pretty much-extended greeting. It is common to inquire about the person and his family as well (father, mother, children, spouse…).

We do not rush

Moroccans do not rush, everything will happen in the right time insha’Allah "if God wills”.  A famous proverb says “la zerba ala slah” means “There is no gain in haste", and another one says “Li zerbo mato” which means “People that rush are the ones that are killed.”

While it has some pros, it has a lot of cons. Going to a hospital in Morocco is often a one-day journey. In the waiting room, you never know when it’s going to be your turn. It’s the same when it comes to paperwork and all that kind of stuff.

We love soccer ⚽️

No matter what you call it, soccer, football, or as they say in Morocco Koura,

Moroccans love football –  it is the national sport. Our team the ultras are one of the best worldwide!

Moroccans like playing football as much as watching it, and women enjoy it just as much as men, and they avidly follow both the global and local soccer tournaments.

Fun facts about Morocco:

  • Gladiator, Game of Thrones, Prison Break, Inception, and dozens of other movies and tv series have been filmed in Morocco.
  • The Film Casablanca wasn’t shot In Casablanca.
  • Moroccan mothers have a great obsession with their living room. As kids, we were not allowed to sit there. The living room needs to stay intact for guests. You dream of one day sitting there. Mum would clean it regularly, although it already looked spotless.
  • Morocco is the world's largest hashish exporter. According to the World Customs Organisation, It supplies 70% of European Hashish, (I have never used it ;))
Cultural Spotlights: Morocco
Ismail at a hashish farm

Final word

In Morocco, we use a quote form Ibn Khaldūn a lot, which says  “ما دمت في المغرب فلا تستغرب” which means “As long as you are in Morocco, do not be surprised.”Don't be surprised how weird things are. Don’t be surprised how good or bad it could sometimes be. Don't feel surprised how illogical things sometimes are. Moroccans are so attuned to being shocked and surprised for the umpteenth time, and they have lost their sense of wonder.

Most Moroccans dream of going abroad. Many of them are trying to leave the country using irregular forms, while most of those abroad dream of the day they will be back.

In Morocco, If someone says wait a minute, it could be an hour.

In Morocco, if you are falling asleep people will wake you up to ask you if you are sleeping.

In Morocco, What’s in between two coffee shops? Another coffee shop.

In Morocco, the symbol of love is not the heart but… the liver.

As Moroccans, We disagree a lot on what type of Morocco we want, but we all agree on one thing: that we love this country because it is the land, it is the family, it is the food.

Hope this has given you a little glimpse into life in Morocco and encourage you to visit the country one day.

https://buffer.com/resources/cultural-spotlights-morocco/

All the Founders Around Me Were Raising Money — Here’s Why I Didn’t

All the Founders Around Me Were Raising Money — Here's Why I Didn't

I always wanted to build something big.

When I started Tech Ladies in 2015 as a coffee meetup in New York City, I could immediately see the potential for it to grow into something larger. As a woman in tech myself, I craved a network to support me through the unique challenges I faced in the workplace. I also realized I was sitting on the answer to the “pipeline problem” that every tech company at the time was claiming prevented them from hiring more women in tech. It seemed like such a simple solution to connect our community with those who wanted to diversify their teams.

Of course, when you’re building something big in tech, most people expect that you’ll raise money to help you grow that big thing faster. While nearly all the founders around me were going the VC route, I decided bootstrapping would be better for us. And now, all these years later, I’m so glad I built it this way.

Don’t get me wrong, there are downsides to bootstrapping your business: You will move slower in staffing up your team, you will operate in lean ways that make you miss out on some opportunities to test at scale, you could lose out to a well-funded competitor who gets market share of what you’re doing (although I find that last one to be somewhat rare). And sure, I had moments when I felt wistful about the glamor of raising venture capital. It would have been nice to have a quick win, to be able to say I raised millions and therefore had a solid idea that important people thought was going to be profitable for them. Sometimes I wished I had a shiny office like all of my founder friends, and the ability to hire right away, staff up, and get this thing as big as we could make it.

But ultimately, none of that stopped our growth. Today, Tech Ladies is the largest community of women in tech with over 150,000 members and generating millions in revenue. We’ve helped hundreds of women find jobs in tech and helped companies diversify their teams. We’ve offered events, training, networking, and resources to women in tech and have had a huge impact in the industry. And I got to do it all without sacrificing my vision (or a percentage of my company).


Here are some of the reasons why bootstrapping was the right path for me and the ways it has helped our company succeed since.

I Proved My Vision Quickly, But It Wasn’t VC Scale

The first indicator that I could bootstrap was the pace at which I started generating revenue that would, in turn, support business growth.

Early on, we started charging companies to place job postings in our weekly newsletter. At the time, the community only had 3,000 members but, because it was an incredible high-quality group of smart women in tech, it was a great pool to hire from. When the postings started bringing in around $5,000 a month and I didn’t have time to reply to every request coming in, I knew it was time to leave my job and work on building Tech Ladies full-time.

Since it seemed like everyone around me was raising money from venture capital firms, I figured I should take a few meetings with some VC connections I had made over the years. From the first meeting, a friendly VC encouraged me to put together a pitch that would promise outsized returns. “How is this a billion dollar company?” he asked. Embarrassingly, I returned with a blank stare and fumbled some answer off the top of my head. Another VC offered me a $50,000 check on the spot if I would just tell him I was “building the LinkedIn for women.”

I went back to my desk later that night and started drafting up some copy around how Tech Ladies could be a billion-dollar business. But everything I wrote felt out of touch with reality, or like a huge exaggeration. When I thought about becoming a massive social network, it didn’t sit right, and I wasn’t sure we could maintain our quality at that scale. I glanced over at the whiteboard next to me where I had clearly mapped out a bootstrapped pathway to make $500,000 our first year, a million after that, and $10 million in the following years. I was the sole owner of this company. Why would I not take a swing at that?

I canceled all the rest of my VC meetings and got back to building.


Going all in on your business without venture capital can be scary. But I asked myself: Do I want to be the founder who burned through $20-30 million in capital trying to build something I don’t totally believe in, or the founder who made even $5-10 million building something smaller but meaningful? Yes, some companies need to raise venture capital because they can’t create revenue until they spend years finalizing their product. But a surprising number can start making an impact (and a profit) quickly. I felt in my gut that was the right path for Tech Ladies.

I’ve Had to Make Everything Work ASAP

As we all know from watching the rise and fall of unicorn startups, raising money actually says very little about whether a company will succeed. Many companies that go the VC route spend a lot of time and money spinning their wheels without ever quite figuring out how to make a profit.

The thing I always tell people about bootstrapping, on the other hand, is that everything has to work. You don’t have six months to ponder revenue models—you have to get to profitability as soon as possible. You don’t have time to debate different strategies—you need to start trying them and see what sticks.

That’s the hard part about bootstrapping, but also the great part. Building a successful company isn’t about getting a few rich people to believe in you, it’s about putting something out into the world that people think is valuable enough to pay for. I’m glad we were forced to figure that out instead of having the money to try a business model for years and have it ultimately not work out.

This isn’t to say we never had failures, we just had to learn from them and adjust very quickly. For example, when you’re bootstrapping it’s very easy to be overprotective of your revenue. After all, that’s your money at the end of the day, so investing it back in the business is another muscle you need to learn to build. For me, one of our biggest mistakes was not hiring full-time people to the team sooner. I think we could have accelerated our growth by about two years if we had made one to two strategic hires, instead of me stubbornly running everything on my own with a few freelancers.

Of course, there were times when I looked at venture-backed companies and dreamed of sitting in their beautiful offices with their massive teams. But I was okay with learning to live without that so I could stay focused on what really matters: the thing we were building and whether it serves people.

I’ve Been Able to Stay Dedicated & Responsive to My Community

Bootstrapping has been especially powerful because I’ve been able to stay focused on our community and our clients as our bosses, rather than having to balance shareholder interests, too.

Like many community-oriented businesses, we have a tight feedback loop with our members and are always paying attention to how we can better serve them. Unlike VC-backed businesses, we can stay really nimble and adjust with our members as their needs change over time. We’ve had instances where we’ve beaten companies with huge amounts of venture capital because we were able to ship something quickly while they were still running things by their biggest investor, putting together reports, and debating the plan.

While they were scaling up global teams that never panned out, we were focused on getting hires for our partners, hosting events that resonated with our community, and building a paid community to help women in tech grow their careers.

Ultimately, my favorite thing about bootstrapping a business is that it's available to everyone and ready for the taking. The only thing holding any of us back is limiting beliefs about what we can build, how we can build it, and if we even deserve it. That’s especially important given that only 2 percent of venture capital funding went to women-owned businesses in 2021. We can talk about all the societal changes that need to happen to fix that—and I’m personally investing my own capital in women-founded companies I believe in—but in the meantime, I hope more founders will stop waiting for permission from the VC powers that be and start working on their ideas on their own terms.

You can build any company you want on the internet right now and make millions of dollars doing it. Why not get started?

Want to learn more of my bootstrapping strategies? Subscribe to my newsletter, Bootstrap to Millions (with Allison), for more regular advice and stories from Tech Ladies’ growth.

https://buffer.com/resources/all-the-founders-were-raising-money-heres-why-i-didnt/

I Took 7 Weeks Off Work After Hiring 3 New Teammates, Here’s Why It Worked Out

I Took 7 Weeks Off Work After Hiring 3 New Teammates, Here’s Why It Worked Out

In July and August of this year, I had the incredible experience of taking seven weeks off of work — fully paid. I benefited from our generous sabbatical policy (more on that below) to take a break from work.

It had been a particularly busy year, and I had two new teammates join in February and then a third in April who all reported to me— so the timing was tight here to get everyone onboarded and operational before I went on sabbatical. I was pretty nervous about taking such an extended period off of work after just having brought on three new teammates. But, in the end, my being away ended up empowering my teammates to level up their ownership and highlighting processes I didn’t need to be involved in.

Taking time away from work can be daunting, but in my experience, it can also be immensely worthwhile. It provided an opportunity for growth for both my team and me.

Here’s more about sabbaticals at Buffer, how I set things up while I was out, and why it ended up working out so well.

Our sabbatical policy

Since 2019, Buffer has offered sabbaticals to all teammates who have been on the team for five or more years. Teammates are invited to take a fully paid sabbatical and spend it however they’d like — working on a side project, traveling, helping a non-profit, spending time with family, achieving a life goal, or something else entirely.

We offer six weeks of sabbatical for every five years at Buffer, plus every additional year without taking a sabbatical adds another week (maxing out at 12 weeks).

February marked six years at Buffer for me, so I was eligible for a seven-week sabbatical. I’m one of 22 people who have taken sabbaticals from their time at Buffer since the practice was first put into place in 2019.

How I set up the team for support while I was out

I run the communications and content team, comprised of two content writers (you’ve seen Tami and Umber on the blog) and one social media manager (you’ve seen Mitra everywhere but might remember Instagram and TikTok videos in particular). Then we work with several agencies as well.

Everyone’s sabbatical planning was slightly different, but for me, I focused on my three teammates first. Here’s how they were supported:

1:1s with another manager

I do weekly 1:1s with each person, and in my absence, they did bi-weekly 1:1s with another marketing manager to continue getting that support.

Connecting with my manager

In some companies, “skip level 1:1s” are popular as a way for teammates to connect with their manager’s manager. My manager is our CEO, Joel, and while I was away, he did a group call with the team to check in and see how they were doing. This isn’t quite a skip level but a similar idea.

Peer reviews

Our original process for blog content was that everything was being run by me for editing. We had peer reviews instituted instead for all blog posts in my absence. Social posts are not all reviewed, but there are several options for peer reviews on social posts around the company when needed.

Masterminds

New mastermind pairings were kicked off around this time, and each teammate was paired with a mastermind partner. These are fun pairings meant to connect two teammates who don’t often work together to chat about challenges and lend a different perspective. They evolve a lot as the relationship deepens. Here’s more on how we run masterminds at Buffer.

Passing off points of contact

In each of my agency relationships, there was usually one other person who was already familiar with how we collaborated. So that person stepped up to become the primary point of contact, or else I assigned several people to be points of contact so our partners at the agency would have options.

Documentation for everyone

Last but not least, we have a really great internal handbook and marketing wiki on our team. Over the past year, I’ve been building systems so that we regularly document processes and best practices in Notion and sometimes include a Loom video.

Before leaving on sabbatical, I regularly asked teammates questions like:

  • What don’t you know enough about?
  • What are you worried would go wrong?
  • Is there any process you’re unsure of?
  • Are you confident you can access all of the information you need?

Then I recorded videos or wrote up documentation for anything that came up.
I had already written down all the other documentation around using specific tools, but I checked that over multiple times to ensure it included everything I thought relevant.

After many months of setting everything up for success, I felt complete confidence in my team. So I set my out-of-office reply and logged out of all of my communications tools for seven weeks to be completely disconnected from work.

The positive benefits of being away for 7 weeks

I was expecting things to go well because I felt everyone had prepared, and I knew there was a solid support system in place, but I was surprised at just how well things went without me there. (Maybe I should go on sabbatical every year? 😆)

I saw a lot of positive benefits.

My team grew a ton during this period

There’s nothing like removing the quick gut check with someone to level up your decision-making skills. I heard across the board that making decisions without my input helped build confidence. I believe this was especially beneficial because, as a new teammate, the practice of running things by me was initially built into the onboarding. Once the habit is created, it can be challenging to break. This led to each person taking on more ownership over their area and projects.

We questioned our processes

When I returned, one of the questions I asked in our first 1:1 with each person was what processes we might want to reconsider. In the end, things I had been owning that I passed to others temporarily ended up sometimes staying with that person because the new process made more sense. For example, in one case, it was a new primary contact for an agency we collaborate with, and another instance was that peer reviews ended up being both fun and helpful, so we kept those.

We also realized there hadn’t been a lot of collaboration built into the content calendar before I left. I had been planning everything while my teammates were still onboarding. Now that everyone was onboarded, we started an editorial review where the content calendar planning is much more collaborative.

It surfaced unclear areas

Being away also surfaced areas that were unclear and that weren’t documented. They all ended up being tiny things (like choosing the right cover image for blog posts), but still, it meant there was room for improvement in communication and documentation around those things.

Ultimately, decisions were made without me leading to teammates being more empowered within their roles and areas, and our team processes were improved and felt much more robust. I couldn’t be happier with all of this!

Where could things have gone better?

I wondered, “could things have gone better?” and I think there’s always room for improvement. But the biggest thing was ensuring my team had enough connections across the company. They are connected to each other and others on our Marketing team, but for new teammates at a remote company, it can be challenging to feel connected. Without a manager there to help make connections, that can be even more difficult. So if I could change one thing, it would be ensuring that there were even more points of connection between my teammates and other leaders at Buffer.

Over to you

Have you taken time off work as a new manager? How did it go? Or do you have any questions about our sabbatical policy at Buffer? Send us a tweet; we’d love to continue the conversation!

https://buffer.com/resources/time-off-after-hiring/

How These Sisters Turned Their Passion for the Alaskan Wilderness into a Fulfilling Small Business

How These Sisters Turned Their Passion for the Alaskan Wilderness into a Fulfilling Small Business

For sisters Anna and Kelly, life was anything but ordinary growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska. On chilly school mornings, as they’d make their way towards the bus stop, it wasn’t uncommon for moose to be idling nearby. Careful not to alert the striking creatures, the girls would nimbly make their way around the animals while somehow still boarding the bus on time.

An encounter like that might be frightening to some, but Anna and Kelly were raised to always respect and appreciate the wildlife they were surrounded by. Living in Alaska, away from relatives, they learned to rely on both their neighbors and the nature around them as their community and family. Now, as adults, they look back at their childhood and appreciate how unique their experience was.

“For a couple of years, we lived in what we call ‘in the village,” Kelly said. “There were a lot of bears where we lived. And every spring, you could walk down to the river and see the blue whales coming up. That time was quite magical for a kid because it's just unlike anything else.”

Their parents always stressed the importance of being present in the moment – something quite easy to do when living near the vastness of the Alaskan wilderness – and intentional in the way they communicate with others. Presence and intentionality were values the girls were raised with and have stayed with them. And while it would take many years before they would eventually open up their own art business, these very principles are what inspired Arctic Haven Studio.

“When we started the business, our biggest goal was to share the art we're creating, but to do so in a way that connects people and back to nature,” Anna said. “Whether it's nature that they've experienced themselves — like if they've actually seen a Musk Ox, they can buy [our] Musk Ox and think about that experience — or to connect them to something they want to experience.”

Together, Anna and Kelly have created a small business that they hope will not only bring people together but also remind them of the beauty around them. This past July, Arctic Haven Studio celebrated their one-year anniversary. In a short amount of time, they shipped their artwork to 16 states, created 17 different design sets, and spent an average of 72 hours on the pieces.

Here’s how the two set up their brand in a way that’s allowed them to pursue their passions while doing a lot of good along the way.

Combining their strengths to create something special

When Kelly was a business major in college, one of the things that were drilled into her was to never go into business with a family member. But she’s glad she didn’t heed the advice of her former professors, as creating Arctic Studio Haven with Anna has been a special experience. Though the two have full-time careers – Kelly works in contract management and Anna is a wildlife ecologist – their other job is running Arctic Haven Studio together.

The studio relies on both Kelly and Anna’s unique strengths. With her business insights, Kelly has been able to handle all of the logistic and administrative work, while Anna creates the artwork that is made out of tiny pieces of recycled paper – a technique she’s been exploring since high school.

For each piece, Anna starts with a simple sketch of an animal, then she begins filling in the outline with scraps of paper – often starting with the creature’s eye which is usually the most detailed part. It’s a long process, and Anna has spent anywhere from 40 to 80 hours working on a piece. Each animal offers its own unique challenge. Recently, Anna made a walrus and enjoyed playing around with paper to create its wet and slimy texture.

It was Kelly who saw just how special and marketable this very art was.

“I would never have started this business if I didn't have [Kelly’s] support and knowledge as a business major and a business person because I like creating stuff, but I don't have the patience or knowledge to actually start a business,” said Anna.

In particular, it was a specific design that Anna had made of a ptarmigan, one of Alaska’s iconic birds, that became the catalyst for their small business. It was one of the most detailed paper-cut pieces Anna had created at the time.

The duo didn’t just want to sell any kind of product, however. They knew they wanted these art pieces to help connect people to one another, which is why they initially launched note cards with Anna’s designs on them.

“We started with notecard sets being our primary product,” Anna said. “We both write a lot of letters and [note cards] lend themselves well to being able to have some art that you get to enjoy, and then can give to someone else,” Anna said.

By playing off each other's strengths, the two have launched a company that perfectly embodies everything important to them.

As Anna said, “personal connection and community is a founding value for us.”

Laying out the groundwork for their small business

Despite already having a very clear vision for their products, Anna and Kelly didn’t rush to open up their doors. Instead, they carefully looked into vendors, reviewed contracts, and researched everything they needed to know about starting a business. In fact, it took them 13 months from their first official design to their grand opening.

While they were in the planning stage, they had clear talks amongst themselves about how they’d run Arctic Haven Studio. First, they broke down the six core functions of the business. They then turned each of those functions into job roles and divided them up between the two. While they value each other's input, they also decided there would be a decision maker for each aspect of the business.

“The agreement was that we both had a say in all the categories, but when a decision had to be made, whoever was assigned that category got to make the final decision,” Kelly said. “And we've never clashed on that.”

This methodological approach to opening the business is something they’re both glad they took the time to do. It allowed them to lay out a foundational groundwork for Arctic Haven Studio, making them feel confident in the business’s mission – to create meaningful work that not only represents their hometown but helps cultivate community amongst their customers.

While they’re proud of the growth they’ve achieved so far, they’ve always been realistic about their business and the fact that for now at least, Arctic Haven Studio is not their full-time job, but their passion project.

This perspective has helped them from getting discouraged.

“Everybody wants to be successful right away. But you have to figure out what that success even looks like and recognize, ‘I'm probably not going to make much money in the first three years’… but knowing that’s okay because success is making one more connection and just having those reasonable and reachable goals,” Kelly said.

Taking their time to open up connects back to the sisters’ goal of always being intentional with their work. This slower pace has allowed them to check all of their boxes, ensuring they were fully ready to become small business owners.

Giving back to themselves and their community

Contributing back to the wildlife they were raised by is something Anna and Kelly knew they wanted to do with their small business, which is why they’ve decided to donate 10 percent of their proceeds to the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center annually. So far, they’ve donated over $300 dollars to the organization, and hope to give even more soon.

“The Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center ended up being a perfect fit for us because they do a lot of conservation and rescuing orphaned animals that then they rehabilitate and get back into the wild,” Anna said. “Or they use them as captive animals in an educational sense. But they have very strong animal care guidelines. And so it's something we felt really good about.”

Along with giving back directly to the wildlife, the sisters have embedded sustainability into their business as well. They use recycled paper and recycled materials for their packaging as much as possible – despite the fact that it is quite pricey for them as a small business to do so. They are well aware of the fact that they could be bringing in more money if they used cheaper supplies, but doing so would feel wrong.

“How can we sell art that reflects nature, but [our customers] are going to rip open the plastic and throw it in the trash?” Kelly said.

But as much as they’re hoping their business can make a positive impact on the world, the sisters have also found that Arctic Haven Studio has brought back so much value into their own lives. While running a small business is not always easy, it has given them a chance to unwind from their everyday lives. For Anna especially, it’s been a creative outlet. The wildlife ecologist just recently graduated from grad school and says the business helped balance things out for her.

“I honestly think [Arctic Haven Studio] is kind of what kept me sane in grad school. Having the creative outlet, creating the art and then also having the business side of things to work on with Kelly, where it was completely separate from my grad school work,” Anna said.

Even more, however, this side project has given the two a reason to spend more time together, strengthening their bond. The most fulfilling part for Kelly has been seeing everyone appreciate Anna’s art – something she’s been doing since childhood.

“I really enjoy seeing people enjoy Anna’s work because I grew up with it,” Kelly said. “There's satisfaction in that and seeing Anna being proud of what she's made.”

The future of Arctic Haven Studio

Just recently, Anna and Kelly celebrated a big moment for their small business: their first in-person exhibit at Wild Scoops, an ice cream shop in Midtown, Alaska. This was the first time they had printed out Arctic Haven studio pieces on such a large scale and displayed them in a public setting for so many to see.

Another step they’ve taken is reaching out to local businesses to start selling their notecards, stickers, and prints in physical stores, moving away from their online-only model. They’re also extending their product line and considering including prints in poster sizes. While they are still selling their original note cards, they’re looking into diversifying their items a bit to reach more customers.

The two plan to continue growing Arctic Studio Haven together with the goal of adding more beauty, nature, and meaning into their customers’ lives.

“We all know that feeling that you get when you’re looking at art and you just want to be where that is,” Kelly said. “And so we hope our customers will take away that [our products] are more than just a piece of paper to write on, but an intentional piece with an intentional connection.”

https://buffer.com/resources/sisters-turned-their-passion-into-a-small-business/

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

When you want to make an impression on people, you no doubt do things to enhance your personality. You wear the clothes that suit you best or if you’re a business, show off the best of your packaging and messaging.

Most social media bios – including Instagram – function as your digital personality. It’s an extension of what people expect in real life, whether the impression they get is accurate or not. And it’s where people instinctively go when trying to understand you (or your brand).  Your Instagram bio is the information section of your account, and it's the first impression visitors to your profile page have of you.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Every part of your Instagram bio is an opportunity to not only introduce (and re-introduce) yourself but also communicate your value to your audience. In this article, we’ll share some ideas for making the most of your Instagram bio and examples of some of our favorites.

What is an Instagram Bio?

An Instagram bio is the section at the very top of every Instagram profile that displays:

  • Profile picture
  • Username
  • Display name
  • 150-character limit description
  • Business category
  • Contact info
  • Link
  • Instagram Shop
  • Instagram Story highlights

Your bio is the first point of contact and should reflect your brand and personality as much as possible. A good bio encourages action from the visitor (‘Shop Now’, ‘Subscribe’, ‘Contact Us’) or gets them invested enough to engage with the content you offer.

What should you consider when creating your Instagram bio?

When thinking through which of these features to include in your bio, consider the following:

  • What is your brand voice and tone?
  • What is your brand’s personality?
  • What do you offer that other brands or accounts don’t?
  • What is your unique selling point?
  • What actions do you want people to take after they visit your profile?

6 ideas for your Instagram bio

There are different ways to approach your Instagram bio. Here’s a breakdown of how you can set yours up using examples from existing accounts.

Keeping it simple

Many people choose to keep their bios as simple as possible. Some just outright state what they are like So It Goes magazine with no other information.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Others use a simple tagline, as we at Buffer and the folks at NASA do.

And some accounts like Kinfolk just have their link-in-bio and business category up and leave the rest of their information blank. (P.S. This is only likely to work if your target audience doesn’t require much information from Instagram as a channel of communication).

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Provide all necessary information upfront

Some bios just go straight to the point with the information new followers might be looking for. It can even save them a Google search if the way they would typically find out the information in your bio is by clicking through several pages.

Getaway House details all the places you can find its rental cabins, saving you a fruitless click to their website.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Newspaper Club states several offerings for its audience – print your own newspaper, get it delivered anywhere in the world, and get free samples.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Ting’s Chips tells you right away where you can find its products.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Get creative

You can choose the route of the Quirky™ Instagram bio by using alternative imagery. This tactic depends on your brand personality – not many people expect “cute and fun” from their logistics company.

Chubby Home uses emojis that match its cute and friendly brand personality.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Visceral Home uses alternative fonts to grab attention. But keep in mind that fonts outside what you normally get on Instagram may not be very accessible as screen readers may be unable to pick them up.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Encourage an action

If you want to get people to do something immediately, your Instagram bio is just the place to tell them.

The Cosmic Latte asks visitors to sign up for their newsletter.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Byredo says to “shop online and in-stores.”

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

SoCo Tahini tells its audience to use tag them using the hashtag #socotahini when they cook with the product.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Offer a deal

Make the sale right off the bat by offering deals to visitors – after all, they’re potential customers.

Wild One offers several deals to visitors, from a discount on shopping a specific product to free shipping on orders over a certain amount.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Free Mvmt Shop offers unlimited access in your first week of use for $25.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Build authority

Some potential customers need a little more convincing than others, so calm their worries with the reasons they should trust your brand.

Kola Goodies does this by mentioning publications they’ve been featured in like Forbes and Bon Appetit. For anyone wondering if they should try a new food brand, this can make them more confident.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Chamberlain Coffee uses this strategy by highlighting its connection to popular founder Emma Chamberlain.

6 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Instagram Bio

Tips to make the most of your Instagram Bio

If you’re looking for more ways to optimize your Instagram bio, here are some of our top recommendations:

  1. Get specific: Use the 150-word space to share your brand hook, highlight new products/releases, highlight partner accounts, or share a hashtag that users can adopt.
  2. Maximize your “link in bio”: You might have seen captions or Reels saying to “click the link in bio” for some extra information or access to new content. Your Instagram link in bio is the optimal opportunity to direct users to your owned content. Many people choose to use a landing page to hold several links, and lucky for you, you can make one right in Buffer, called a Start Page.
  3. Fill out ALL the (relevant) details: Instagram allows you to include a lot of information before users even scroll down to the rest of your page. Take advantage of the available tools by including Contact buttons, letting users Shop from you right in your account, or creating Instagram Story highlights.
  4. Add a CTA to encourage action: If you want visitors to take a specific action the first time they visit your page, tell them in your Instagram bio. ‘Click the link in bio to do x’, ‘send us a message’, ‘use the hashtag #xyz’ – these are some of your options.
  5. Use a relevant profile picture: Whether it’s your logo, a recognizable face or a campaign image, you must fill in the profile picture space with something that fits your brand.

Change up your bio from time to time

You and your business will evolve – and your social media bios should evolve in tandem. Instagram bios don’t need to be static – you can edit them to your heart’s content, so take advantage of the freedom to highlight any new projects or releases or start a new campaign.

Beyond optimizing your account, you might also be focused on growth, whether of your followers or overall metrics. Take the chance to start scheduling your Instagram posts through Buffer and build the organic momentum that will take your Instagram page from “meh” to “must-follow.”

https://buffer.com/resources/instagram-bio-ideas/

Ask Buffer: How Can You Batch Content for Social Media?

Ask Buffer: How Can You Batch Content for Social Media?

Question: I have a lot of great ideas, but I find that I don’t have enough time to make all of them come to life. What do you recommend?

Creating content can be fun, especially when you have many ideas to work on, but it’s also super time-consuming. There are many workarounds to this, from content repurposing and cross-posting to content batching – the highlight of today’s article.

Content batching helps you save time, post consistently, and repurpose your ideas seamlessly across platforms. In this article, we’ll walk through how you can create a system for content batching that lets you execute all your best ideas with enough time to spare.

What is content batching?

With this strategy, you make content in batches to use for over a long time period. For example, instead of creating a new graphic every time a post is ready to go live, you work on several images several weeks in advance.

Content batching is a productivity and planning technique that can help you improve the creation process for you and your business.

Benefits of content batching

The main goal of content batching is to help you stay ahead of the curve so you can focus your energy on other areas of your business. It also helps you:

  • Save time and energy
  • Feel free to take time off whenever you need to because you always have content ready to go
  • Create a cohesive structure for content publishing. Having content on hand means you have what you need for specific dates/times but can also move around posts if something more time-specific occurs, like a breaking news story or surprise industry update.
  • Boost productivity and consistency while reducing procrastination

For anyone looking to be more consistent with publishing content, creating content in batches is a great way to do all the hard work in one go, so you have multiple options for future use.

Understand your content pillars

Content pillars are the themes or topics used to guide what you post for your brand. A baby clothes brand will post baby and parent-related content, and a logistics company will post transportation and (e)commerce content.

Some ways to identify content pillars include:

  • Brand values. If your brand has specific values that can translate into content, these could influence your pillars.
  • Audience interests. What have your customers repeatedly come back to?
  • Analytics. What has historically been very effective regarding content for your brand? Is it a particular topic or content format?

An example of a brand that knows its content pillars is Ello Products, which sells reusable food and liquid storage products. Across its social media, the brand publishes content that tends to be centered around these things: sustainability, meal prepping, and customer-driven campaigns.

@ello_products

Who says summer is over? Take your tastebuds to the beach with this Strawberry Paloma recipe ⛱🌊 #drinkrecipe #recipe #drinkideas #cocktail #cocktailidea

♬ original sound – evie

Outlining your pillars keeps your evergreen content cohesive so audiences know what to expect outside of time-bound content. You can discover what content pillars will resonate with your audience through a mix of competitor and audience research, as well as experimentation with different options.

Experimenting is particularly important because the results from your analytics can help you better determine what your audience connects with and what you should leave behind. Bonus tip: if you use Buffer to schedule content, you can easily track your analytics within your account!

Callout: Check out these articles for more advice on understanding and applying your analytics: 1 and 2.

Set aside time for brainstorming and planning

For content batching to be effective, you must plan ahead of time. The ideal outcome of batching is to help you be productive while reducing procrastination, which means you must put in a lot of initial effort for the eventual outcome.

If you’re looking for ideas for content to create, here are some of our suggestions.

  • Brand pillars
  • Holidays – just pick what fits your brand and create your content ahead of time:
  • User-generated content – can function as a consistent flywheel of batched content while also improving your community engagement.
  • Blog content
  • Company updates and campaigns

Callout: Check out this and this article for more content ideas.

Case Study: The Cosmic Latte

The Cosmic Latte is an account that provides its audience with content meant to educate and entertain about astrology. When visiting their account, their audience can expect to see content around relevant topics like horoscopes or customer testimonials.

@thecosmiclatte.com

link in bio to sign up for emails 💌Sunday's Cancer moon, I'm taking a bath, saging my space, and spending a cozy evening alone ☁️💧#moontransits #moonsigns #cancermoon #piscesmoon #taurusmoon #astrologyforecasts #astrologytransits #astrologyfyp #spiritualitytiktok #astrologytiktok

♬ original sound – thecosmiclatte

This is a great example because, with astrology-focused content, you can plan farther ahead. After all, the information is based on predictions that can be interpreted for different audiences. As long as the creator keeps track of what’s up next, whether that’s Virgo season or a full moon, they can stay ahead of the curve and plan content accordingly.

Callout: You can use Buffer’s Drafts feature to put down your ideas as they come and expand on them when you’re ready. This way, you don’t spend too much time brainstorming and can dedicate time to the creation process.

Batch create the copy and visuals for all your content in one sitting

This is the bulk of the work of batch-creating content for social media, and it relies on proper organization with a content calendar or similar tracking system. At Buffer, we use Notion to keep track of what projects we’re working on, so we always know when a piece of content is meant to be published and can create it ahead of time. This method works for us because we have a clear view of everything we need to get out but can also move things around if we need to.

A great way to avoid spending hours in a day creating content is to set aside specific hours in a day or days in a week to work on specific parts of your content that you can do at once. For example, you might spend a few hours on a Monday creating the visual content for your brand, whether that’s product photography or creating images in Canva or Photoshop. Then you can dedicate a Tuesday to drafting the copy that goes along with your imagery and so on.

Schedule your content

The final piece of the puzzle that makes content batching so effective: scheduling.

If you’re worried that scheduling ahead of time affects the performance of your posts, fear not! We’ve answered that question, but the short answer is that it doesn’t. If anything, it helps you stay consistent with scheduling so you never have to worry about forgetting to post.

And of course, you should use Buffer to schedule your batch-created content – get started here.

Use content batching as a way to avoid burnout – not exacerbate it

In other words, don’t put pressure on yourself to post on social media, batched content or not. Life happens, and part of avoiding burnout is understanding that some days, you just won’t be able to get anything up, and that’s okay.

Instead of doing hours' worth of work, bake content batching into your weekly process so you do smaller amounts with the same effect of having content ready ahead of time.

https://buffer.com/resources/content-batching/

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

A few weeks back we did something a little different.

Everyone across the company dropped their work, canceled all meetings, and spent a week working on projects that weren’t on our roadmap.

We called it Build Week.


Why? Well, at Buffer, we know the best ideas don’t always come from of conventional styles of work.

We’ve experimented in the past with lots of different work-styles, including self-management, OKRs (and scrapping OKRs), and our 4-day work week.

A Build Week was something we’ve talked about doing at Buffer for years.

We’d previously run hackathons and paper-cut sessions where the engineering teams would put time aside to work on projects outside of their typical day-to-day work.

But with Build Week, we went bigger, encouraging everyone in the company to get involved.

Two weeks before Build Week, dozens of Bufferoos submitted their ideas to Build

Week. Ideas ranged from small improvements in the product, to new landing pages.

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap
All of the ideas submitted for Build Week

Each of us voted on the ideas we liked best and then grouped into 16 small teams of 4-6 to get to work.

Throughout the week we shared short updates with the company to showcase our progress. The dedicated #build-week Slack channel was alive with Loom videos, and prototypes as teams shared their work.

And after 4 days, 32(ish) hours, and 80 teammates getting involved, we had created a whole host of new projects. Take a look 👇

10 Product Improvements

Most of our team worked on product improvements, some small, some much larger. Many of which haven’t been released yet (more on that later), but  have made it into the product. Here’s what we built:

Attach Google Photos to your posts

Adding a Google Photo to your post just got a whole lot easier. With just one click you can open up your Google Photos account and attach the image you want to your post!

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

See your teammates’ name next to their posts

Now you can see exactly which team member wrote each of the posts in your queue or drafts.

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

Gravatar profile pictures pulled into Buffer

Not only will you see your teammates’ name, you’ll see their faces too! Profile pictures (stored in Gravatar) will now be pulled directly into Buffer.

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

Analytics for Instagram Reels

This one will be music to the ears of many Instagram fans. Analytics (including impressions, reach, engagement, likes, and more) are now available for Instagram Reels.

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

Analytics for sent Instagram posts

We’ve made measuring your performance even simpler. See how your Instagram posts have performed straight from the sent posts page. Top-level analytics will appear right under the post helping you see if you hit, or missed the mark.

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

Empty your queue with bulk deletion

Got a bunch of failed posts stuck in your queue? Want to start afresh and remove all your queued posts? Now it takes just a click. Head to settings to clean or empty your queue.

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

Preview videos before you post

When uploading a video post to Buffer, you can now preview the video instead of just the thumbnail.

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

Default timezone based on your location

Previously when folks would set up Buffer, we’d assign them a London timezone by default. Not great for people posting from Portland, or tweeters tweeting from Tokyo. Now, Buffer uses your browsers timezone to determine the in-app timezone.

Twice as many colors in campaigns

Previously when folks would set up Buffer, we’d assign them a London timezone by default. Not great for people posting from Portland, or tweeters tweeting from Tokyo. Now, Buffer uses your browsers timezone to determine the in-app timezone.

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

Hashtag manager available on all channels

Previously, the hashtag manager (used to store all your groups of hashtags) was only available for Instagram posts. Now it’s available on every channel.

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

Seven updates we can’t release just yet

That’s just a taste of some of the things we built. There were seven other product updates worked on during Build Week, but they’re not ready to launch just yet. Keep your eye on our Changelog page or our Twitter account to see when they drop, but to wet your appetite, here’s some of the features on the cards 👇

  • Recipes: remove the guesswork & writers block from content planning
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap
  • Streaks: Build a consistent posting habit with Buffer streaks. Send or schedule posts every day to keep your streak going and claim your reward.
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap
  • Channel Wizard: A wizard that asks a few questions and then suggested a few channels that would be the most impactful when I’m starting social media for business.
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap
  • Comments on Drafts: Different team members can comment on drafted posts.
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap
  • Referral Codes: Refer Buffer to your friends to win prizes!
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap
  • Weekly Report Card: A weekly email documenting how you’ve performed on social over the previous week.
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap
  • Your Year in Review: Just liked Spotify Wrapped, but for Buffer. See how what you’ve achieved over the past year.
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

We hope to ship some of these extra features soon.

But Buffer’s Build Week wasn’t just about shipping product features. We wanted to work on other projects too. Most of these projects are designed to promote our culture and values, take a look. 👀

Five Culture & Values Projects

  • The Bufferoo Map: A live map on our site showing exactly where each Buffer employee works from 🔗 https://buffer.com/map
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

  • A Time Off Dashboard: At Buffer, we offer unlimited holiday. Want to know exactly how much time we take off? Now you can! 🔗  https://buffer.com/timeoff
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

  • What Buffer is Reading: Every Buffer employee can expense any book they’re reading. For this (final) project, we built a page that showcases what we’re reading right now. 🔗 https://buffer.com/books
We Took a Week Off to Build Features That Weren’t on Our Roadmap

Well that’s a wrap!

In just four days we managed to produce a pretty mind-blowing number of projects.

We were thrilled by our progress. But what do you think? Have you tried a Build Week before with similar results? Tweet us to let us know.

Oh, do you want to suggest some ideas for us to work on next time? Drop them here.

https://buffer.com/resources/we-took-a-week-off-to-build-features-that-werent-on-our-roadmap/

Why I Think More Mission-Driven Founders Should Start Businesses Instead of Nonprofits

Why I Think More Mission-Driven Founders Should Start Businesses Instead of Nonprofits

When I set out to start my own venture, I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to something where I could have real impact. I’d spent the years leading up to this point as a corporate attorney, a career I enjoyed, but I was itching to work on my own idea.

I also had a vision for an organization aimed at improving diversity and representation in the outdoor adventure space. See, I got into the outdoors later in life: I didn’t go backpacking until my late 20s or climbing until my early 30s. While getting into these hobbies changed my life for the better, it was also an isolating journey. As a woman, as a person of color, and as a beginner adult, there weren’t a lot of communities to welcome me or support to help me learn new skills. I wanted to change that, and when I’d tell people this, they’d immediately say, “Oh, so you’re starting a nonprofit.”

Working at or starting a nonprofit might be the most obvious path for someone like me who wants to make a difference. I did consider going that route, but instead decided to start a for-profit business: Headlamp, a platform for female, non-binary, and gender queer adventurers to find their path outdoors through content, community, and guides.

We make money by taking a transaction fee on bookings made through the site while ultimately supporting instructors in getting more business and individuals in finding community and learning new outdoor skills. Our goal is to start building out features that will help outdoor instructors grow their businesses. We are especially interested in supporting emerging and underrepresented outdoor instructors, who often face the biggest challenges in growing their businesses.  

To me, I’ve learned that building a business is a powerful way to serve the community I want to help. Here’s why I think more mission-driven founders should consider starting a business:

I Could Get Started More Quickly

Don’t get me wrong, starting a business is very hard. But, in some ways, there’s a lower barrier to entry when starting a business than there is when starting a nonprofit.

Getting a nonprofit off the ground and continuing to run one involves a lot of administrative hurdles. Registering as a 501(c)(3) is fairly complicated, involving setting up a board of directors and approving bylaws and usually taking many months; registering as an LLC took me a couple of days. When running a nonprofit, there’s a lot of regulation of how you spend your money; as a business owner, I have more control over the day-to-day decisions I make, giving me more flexibility to experiment quickly and pivot based on what I learn.

There’s a good reason for all this: nonprofits serve the public and receive tax breaks, so what they’re doing with their time and money should be scrutinized. But, it’s also easy for nonprofit founders to get bogged down by the paperwork and feel like they never really make the impact they envisioned.

For instance, I’m currently in a fellowship for rising leaders in the outdoors industry where I am the only for-profit business owner—the other fellows often discuss how frustrating it is to spend their days compiling reports and materials for donors instead of directly working with the communities they wish to serve. Meanwhile, I participated in an accelerator earlier this year that was targeted at founders of color who were launching outdoor brands. These profit-seeking businesses are trying to serve the same community as some of the nonprofits, but they're able to start working toward their mission much faster because they’re not limited by the same regulations.

I Have Access to a Lot More Resources

There’s no beating around the bush here: We live in a capitalist society, and there are simply more resources for businesses.

I experienced this first hand in my early career before becoming a founder: I started in the nonprofit space and then shifted to a more corporate career. I was amazed by the budgets and connections that I suddenly had access to—resources that would have helped immensely in achieving our mission when I was working at nonprofits.

When I was considering whether to start a nonprofit or a business to tackle my vision, I saw the same sorts of limitations for founders. While there are some accelerators and incubators specifically for nonprofits—and some traditional incubators, like Y Combinator, have started to include nonprofits as part of their cohorts—it’s less common to find that kind of support. The fundraising options for businesses are immense, from grants to angel investors to VC money to crowdfunding, whereas nonprofits have to rely on more traditional donors or highly-competitive grants. To help give me the best chance of achieving my mission, I wanted as many resources behind me as possible.

I Have an Opportunity for Self-Sustainability

One of the most exciting things about building a business is the opportunity for self-sustainability based on something we make. Instead of having to go back to donors year after year like nonprofits do, my goal for Headlamp is for the company to create enough revenue to support the business and further the mission.

It’s worth noting that, in some cases, nonprofits are also allowed to sell products or services instead of relying completely on donations. However, the difference in how nonprofits are expected to spend their time and money makes it harder for them to take the time needed to experiment, iterate, and ultimately reach product-market fit. With a mission-driven business, it’s expected that it will take years to perfect the product and truly demonstrate the impact we’re having.

When I do become profitable, I hope to not only support my mission through my business, but also by redirecting some of our profits to related nonprofits. I also hope to reach the point where I can pay myself in my team well, which isn’t typical in the nonprofit space because of tight restrictions about how they spend their money.

I believe that if you’re spending a lot of time on a cause, you deserve to be paid well for it. While it’s just me working on the business right now, when I make my first key hires, I’ll be excited to be able to offer competitive salaries to help attract the best talent to help me achieve my mission, and make sure they feel valued for their hard work.

I Can Still Have a Huge Impact

The best part is, I can have just as much impact as a mission-driven business as I’d be able to as a nonprofit. When I talk to customers who are booking outdoor experiences on my marketplace, they aren’t taken aback by having to pay for this service—they feel seen and excited to have access to something that doesn’t exist for them elsewhere. When I talk to the outdoor guides who can list their services through my business, they connect with me deeply because we’re both small business owners with the same goal in mind: to get more under-served people outdoors.

I’m not trying to say that all nonprofits should be replaced by businesses. For one, some services should be provided for free, and those are probably best served by nonprofits. But more than that, I think there’s room for both types of organizations: Nonprofits who can offer free services, and mission-driven businesses that can move faster and deliver more innovative solutions with the resources behind them.

My hope is that more future founders with a big vision for change they want to make in the world won’t just default to the nonprofit route. Maybe a nonprofit is the right way for you to achieve your mission, but starting a profit-seeking business can be just as powerful of a way to make an impact—if not more so.

https://buffer.com/resources/more-mission-driven-founders-should-start-businesses-instead-of-nonprofits/

Social Proof: Tori Dunlap on Evolving a Personal Brand Beyond the Person

Social Proof: Tori Dunlap on Evolving a Personal Brand Beyond the Person

This edition of Social Proof features a different story, offering the scenario of “what if my personal brand grew to be more than me?” That has been Tori Dunlap’s experience as her project to save $100,000 before the age of 25 has grown into a business touching millions of people’s lives.

The founder of multimillion-dollar brand HerFirst100k sat (zoomed?) with me for Social Proof about what happens when the brand that has been so reliant on your name grows more prominent than you.

As the interviewee with the largest audience of four million people across different social media platforms, Tori is an exciting deviation from the other impressive personalities we’ve met so far.

In this interview, we talk about growing out of the nine to five (even when you’re not entirely confident), the power of social media to accelerate brand growth, and the exciting future of personal branding.

🖊️
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: It’s so great to have you on for Social Proof, Tori! What do you think about personal branding in general? Have you been quite intentional about building yours?

If you were to ask me two years ago if HerFirst100k is a personal brand, I would say yes. But now it is so much bigger than that. And we're actually purposefully trying to make it not a personal brand. It is so tied to me, but we are now a team of 14, and HerFirst100k is a community of nearly four million people. So I think it's now more of a company that happens to be founded by me, and we're purposefully trying to make it not a personal brand.

Social Proof: Tori Dunlap on Evolving a Personal Brand Beyond the Person

In terms of what a personal brand is, I think it's how you choose to show up either in a business, online, or as an extension of yourself. So it can take various forms. And one of the biggest things that folks building a personal brand realize at some point is that it should be a part of you rather than all of you. And it also should be the part of you with something to say or some value to offer people. But that is separate from your inherent worth as a human being.

Q: And would you call what you have now a personal brand?

If I'm not playing small, I'm calling it an empire. But if I'm calling it something more realistic, it's an organization far beyond me and my personal story and has been for some time.

Q: You’re very visible in a way previous Social Proof interviewees aren’t. How does it feel to have your image so closely tied to such a massive brand in HerFirst100k?

Ninety-eight percent of the time, it’s great, but that two percent is challenging. How long do you have on the business side? If you’re not a person who runs a business and you see someone who is a business owner online, you might think they handle everything. This is especially true for a business like mine where I’m so visible.

But I obviously can’t reply to every email or respond to every Instagram comment – that’s just not possible. I think the creator world is still so veiled because people can think that one person runs an entire company. And that’s made the personal side very challenging – it’s hard to separate me from the business because I care so much about it.

It feels like an inverted pyramid where I have so much impact on the business that if something were to happen to me tomorrow, HerFirst100k might not exist. That’s something we’ve had to consider over the past year.

A couple of other interesting things are that I'm making more money than ever, and I get recognized on the street. And if I go out, I wonder if someone recognizes me or is watching me – that's a weird feeling that I'm not used to yet. But people are always very kind, and we get messages every five minutes telling us that our work has changed lives – it’s the coolest part of our work.

In addition, the perceived need to show up all of the time because if my face isn't on a TikTok, it doesn't perform as well. And so there are interesting expectations around the pace and consistency of the content that we have to create. And unfortunately, the content that I still need to be involved in for the success of the business. So again, these are all like strategic things that we're working on finding a better answer for.

Q: Now for my favorite question: what three words would you use to describe your/HerFirst100k’s brand?

Feminist, educational, and unapologetic.

We are a financial education company, but ultimately, we are a feminist company that happens to use money as our medium. And I think that that's something a lot of people might not publicly understand. But privately, as a team, that's what we're laser-focused on. We are a feminist brand first, financial second.

Social Proof: Tori Dunlap on Evolving a Personal Brand Beyond the Person

Q: Did your social media efforts start because you needed a marketing vehicle for HerFirst100k? Or were you already doing things on social media, and that led to you creating your business?

It was probably the latter because my background was in social media marketing. So the financial education business was not part of the plan. But I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. And so I was building a blog and a social media presence on the side of my nine to five.

Then through a couple of years of experimenting, I realized I wanted to have conversations about money and share education. So I feel like I knew a lot about social media, knew how to navigate it, knew how to tell stories, and was able to leverage those tools.

Social Proof: Tori Dunlap on Evolving a Personal Brand Beyond the Person

On the flip side, I don't think we really saw growth in our business until our social media grew, so I think they fed each other. I knew what I wanted to do in terms of marketing or figured that out along the way. It’s a cycle: our mission with HerFirst100k aided our social media growth which fed back into our mission.

Q: At what point did you decide to leave your career in marketing to focus on your business?

I told myself from week two of working a corporate job, “This is not for me forever,” because the plan was always to be an entrepreneur. I decided to quit once my business started consistently making as much money as my nine-to-five. And the weird thing that happened – because as the money person, you think I would have done this – I wasn’t keeping track of how much my business was making.

Of course, I knew the numbers generally, but I didn't know what they were month over month. And I think that’s because I would have had to quit if I knew. I saw the momentum, we’d started making some money, and I purposely wasn't crunching numbers because I would have had to keep the promise to myself. And that – quitting my job – felt very scary.

But while on vacation, I got the call for a Good Morning America, came back, and did the interview. Three weeks later, I quit my job and never looked back.

I'm financially independent at 28, we give women jobs, we're a multi-million dollar company – it was 100 percent the right choice.

Q: And how does it feel seeing the shift to brand-creator relationships not long after you left a company to become a creator?

I think it is a difference in how the work is changing, how the internet is changing, and how if you are not ready and interested in adopting these changes, you will get left behind. There are all sorts of exciting changes, and if you are unwilling to adapt and bring in new, diverse talent, you will miss out on significant benefits for your brand.

Q: Which of your efforts, prior to media attention on platforms like Good Morning America, was the turning point for you and your business?

Overnight successes only seem to have happened overnight because you discovered them overnight. I discover so many people that seem to have come out of nowhere. That's the same thing with me – you didn't hear about me for years, but I’ve been building for seven years. So there were two of those turning points before the media attention and seeming overnight success.

The first key moment was when I rebranded my business in 2018. Technically, our business is still called Victory Media which is the umbrella under which HerFirst100k exists. And while I still love that name, it had nothing to do with what the company does. If I was quoted in an article, no one would know what my company does from the name Victory Media’. Rebranding to HerFirst100k was not only very clear, but it also says in the title who exactly I'm appealing to.

The second biggest turning point was 100 percent getting on TikTok in July 2020. A video went viral not long after we started posting; it was growth like I had never seen before. We went from, I think, 2000 followers to around 200,000 or more within a few weeks. We had another video go viral in 2021, which is our most viewed video and has seven million views. It drove 100,000 email subscribers to our newsletter in a week – just from that one video.

@herfirst100k

Making bank teaching women how to make bank. #smallbusiness #clownshit #personalfinance feminist #moneytips #adulting #manifesting #businessowner

♬ trump sells like poo poo (Apashe – Sand Storm feat. Odalisk) – ⁺˚*・༓☾haya☽༓・*˚

It was the opportune time – everybody was on TikTok at the time and bored at home. I was the same, consuming content for about four months before I started creating it. And I think that really helped because I could understand trends, what worked and what didn't.

We now have 2.2 million followers, it's increased our Instagram following tenfold, it's probably quadrupled our revenue, and it's been the driver of our podcast success. It's just changed absolutely everything. So I think those were our two big turning points: changing the name of the business at least publicly and then starting on Tik Tok and navigating our platform.

Q: If you could tell younger Tori anything, what would it be?

I talk to her all the time – she's so proud of me, and I'm so proud of her. I'd tell her to chill out first of all. My ambition is the reason I am where I am, but it also, sometimes, makes me miserable. Because the interesting thing is, that I had people I looked up to and compared myself to for a long time. For example, I discovered Jenna Kutcher, who’s amazing and already had a massive platform in 2016. And I remember looking at her and thinking – I can do that, I can have that business.

I would post on Instagram, or I would send an email, and I wouldn't see any growth. And I'd be really frustrated. Because again, the overnight success thing. I discovered her now, and so I want what she has now. But she had grown to be so successful over multiple years, and I got so impatient that I wasn't seeing the same amount of success at the pace I wanted. We’re now colleagues, but I look back on that and can see that I had to go through the years to reach a certain point, just like everybody else.

Even if you know you're capable of something, it won’t work out as you expect if it's not the right time. You have to make all the mistakes and learn all the ropes to reach the same level of success. If future me showed up to past me and gave me Jenna Kutchner’s business, I wouldn’t have been able to support it. I did not have the bandwidth, expertise, confidence, or knowledge to do that. I didn't have the boundaries to be able to do that.

You have to patiently build that over time till you get to the point where you can build the business that you want. It has to come through time and patience, and dedication. So to younger me, who was so ambitious – much like my current self – I would tell her that she’s capable, but it’ll take a bit of time to get to where she wants.

Q: What downsides have you experienced as a creator with such a large platform?

The lack of separation emotionally for me because I care so much about this. Feedback hurts more, both necessary feedback and criticism because it's directed at me and not at the company that happens to be led by me. I think people are more likely to give that criticism because they feel like I'm going to see it and read it and internalize it. And they're usually right, I've usually seen it. As someone who often is very vocal about issues, I feel like doing so opens me up to a lot of criticism. Because if I'm vocal, other people will be vocal about me.

Also, getting recognized can be really beautiful but comes with its own challenges.

And the biggest one is that I will screw up. I'm often scared that people won't offer the grace I hope they will, and I feel there's very little forgiveness for people online. But I'm hoping that people have the grace to understand that I will do my best to acknowledge my mistakes, make them right, and learn.

Q: With the context of your journey, what do you see as the future of personal branding?

Social Proof: Tori Dunlap on Evolving a Personal Brand Beyond the Person

When you think about people with a strong personal brand like Oprah, whose name has become so well-known but is a huge business with many people working behind the scenes, in reality. It’s Oprah’s book club, the Oprah network, and Oprah magazine, but no one thinks she’s writing the whole magazine herself. But with most online creators, if you’re not paying attention, you may still think that the people with huge platforms are doing so much work alone. That’s just not the case.

So I think the future of personal branding will be much more like running a business. Even the perception of a personal brand doesn't feel as legitimate as saying, you know, I'm a C Corp or an LLC. And that will also change how consumers think about brands. It will become more widely known and accepted that the people you see online likely have a team supporting their creative efforts, no matter how relatable they are. In addition, I hope people will understand that it’s hard to grow at the same rate as their favorite creators without that team. So it would help mitigate creator burnout and develop a personal brand.

There’s also an opportunity there for people to connect with a company and a mission to foster diverse thoughts, general diversity, and connection with many people around a particular mission. Again, this is a far better option than having one person grow until they become an almost godlike figure. And as we know, godlike figures are never, ever a good idea.

Takeaways

Like I said in the intro, this interview was a departure from the other Social Proof installments we’ve done. Tori’s turned her personal brand into a business, bringing a different perspective to successfully growing an online reputation. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from our conversation:

  • The future of personal branding will be operating like a business: Tori makes a great point that even if someone is the face of a big project, there’s often a large team supporting them. In practice, this might look like creating video content and paying someone else to edit or using a personal assistant. A great example of a personal brand-turned-business like Tori’s is Ali Abdaal’s growth from a team of one to a team of twenty-one (as of December 2021). To scale his content operations, Ali runs his creative platforms like a company – we may begin to see more of this, albeit on a smaller scale.
  • Patience is vital as you grow and scale your personal brand: Tori’s business has an audience of nearly 4 million people, but that didn’t come overnight. It took years – and consistency – to build HerFirst100k to where it is today. When building your personal brand, you must be patient and persistent at publishing content and engaging with people to see the long-term impact.
  • There’s no project too niche to share: An interesting highlight of this interview was Tori breaking down the choice to name the business HerFirst100k. It’s so specific because that’s what she started sharing content around – saving $100,000 – but also because it clearly states who the business is for. There are people of all genders that might be trying to save more or less money, and they could benefit from the content being shared, but the business knows exactly who its audience is. The takeaway is to a) get specific and b) share your seemingly too-specific pursuits because there’s an audience for almost everything.

Looking for ways to improve your processes to scale your personal brand? Try Buffer for consistent content scheduling.

https://buffer.com/resources/social-proof-tori-dunlap/

How Twitter Super Followers Works and How These Creators Leverage the Feature

How Twitter Super Followers Works and How These Creators Leverage the Feature

Twitter has been an amazing platform for content creators and small business owners to build community, showcase their work and knowledge, and express distinct viewpoints. In our series, Social Proof, we’ve spoken to content creators who’ve literally built their careers by tweeting about their interests and passions. And the power of Twitter can be leveraged by professionals in virtually all fields – making it a great channel to build community.

And now, Twitter is giving creators a new tool to connect with their most ardent supporters – Super Followers. The feature was first introduced in September of 2021, and allows creators to earn revenue from their tweets, while also providing a way for them to deepen their relationship with their biggest fans. Here’s exactly how the feature works and how two content creators are creating exclusive tweets for their Twitter Super Followers.

What exactly does it mean to have Twitter Super Followers?

Your Twitter Super Followers will be privy to specific content that you’ve curated especially for them. Currently, Super Followers is being tested, meaning it’s only available to certain people who’re in the test group and not a feature just anyone can use. Even if you are included in this special group, you’ll still need to apply to have Super Followers.

Here are the qualifications you’ll need to meet:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Have at least 10,000 Followers
  • Have Tweeted at least 25 times in the last 30 days

How exactly does a normal follower get upgraded to a Super Follower? They will need to subscribe and pay a monthly fee. Twitter gives creators the option to set the price – you can choose from three different tiers: $2.99, $4.99, and $9.99.

Once you start getting subscribers, that’s when the fun begins! You’ll be able to plan out and create specific content for an exclusive portion of your audience, aka your Super Followers.

Along with seeing exclusive tweets, Super Followers will also have a badge displayed next to their name that will show up when they interact with your Tweets. And, they’ll have access to exclusive Twitter Spaces you can host.

How Twitter Super Followers Works and How These Creators Leverage the Feature
Source: Twitter

As this feature is still in development, Twitter has said they’re looking into adding additional perks and bonus content for Super Followers.

How these content creators utilize Twitter Super Followers

Maybe you’re interested in having Super Followers, but you’re not entirely sure how you’d go about it. To give you some insight into the possibilities this new tool provides, here are how these two content creators are navigating the feature.

Mr. Gary is more personal with his Twitter Super Followers

A long-time actor who got his start playing Nelson Tibideaux on The Cosby Show, Gary Gray’s Twitter account revolves around his art. Asides from acting, Gary does coaching for voice lessons, writes screenplays, and creates original art pieces. The actor has landed many of his followers through tweets he’s made about his previous roles — like when he posted about the 25th anniversary of Rocket Power – a popular Nickelodeon show he worked on.  


When Gary first got the notice that he was eligible to apply for Super Followers, he didn’t seriously think any of his followers would actually pay for extra tweets. That is, until he asked. He was surprised to see several individuals responding that they would be interested in Super Following him.

The actor has been using the feature for the last couple of months and fluctuates between 8 – 14 Super Followers. Overall, he says he’s had a positive experience with it. The main difference in the content he creates for his Super Followers is that he’s intentionally more interactive with this group compared to the rest of his 24,000+ community.

“On my regular Twitter, I'll just say, you know, ‘Feeling meh,’” Gary said. “Whereas, with Super Followers, I'll say, ‘Not feeling so good today. What did you guys do?’ Because it makes them feel a little less like they’re observing me and a little bit more like they’re included.”

Gary also provides his Super Followers with additional perks including exclusive access to his sketches and art pieces at discounted prices. Recently, he just did his first giveaway for his Super Followers as well and gifted a signed copy of a Rocket Power video game.

How Twitter Super Followers Works and How These Creators Leverage the Feature
Gary offers his Super Followers exclusive access to art pieces

Gary appreciates this tight knit relationship he’s developed with his Super Follower community and has noticed that his Super Followers also seem to enjoy this content as they regularly interact with his exclusive tweets.

Ashani the Alchemist offers personalized horoscopes for her Twitter Super Followers

A tarot reader and astrologist, Ashani has always felt drawn to the spiritual world. She majored in creative writing in college and worked at a spiritual shop which prepped her well to write the horoscope messages she would eventually be known for.  


After losing her job during the beginning of the pandemic, Ashani became more active on Twitter and her friends began asking her to do tarot readings – making her realize there was a demand for her service. She quickly went viral on Twitter and her popularity afforded her the opportunity to go on Instagram Live with rap superstar Cardi B and do a birth-chart reading for her.

When Ashani was first introduced to Super Followers, she was very interested because she believed this feature could allow her to focus more on Twitter as a whole instead of other platforms like Patreon.

“I was excited [for Super Followers] because I didn’t like Patreon for the sole fact that, one, it took me away from the engagement I had on Twitter. And I felt like I was working double time trying to create content for Twitter and Patreon.”

Ashani has amassed just over 30 Super Followers in the last few months and provides them with more personalized horoscope messages than the ones she offers the rest of her 38,000+ following. However, the content creator admits that since the feature is so new, she is still figuring out how to best engage with her Super Followers.

“[Super Followers] is a lot more of an intimate space,” she said. “I'm still trying to figure out how I can engage with people a little bit more, or, what they even want from me. Because obviously, they want the content and the information. But it’s like, how can I make it more fulfilling for myself as well?”

As of now, Ashani does see the value in having Super Followers and plans to continue using it. However, she’s actively brainstorming new ways to engage with this exclusive audience in order to make the feature work best for both her community and her business.

Still, her current Super Followers already see the value in the services and content she is providing, including one of her ardent supporters, Twitter user @luminary222. Luminary says she is happy to pay the $4.99 a month because she believes Ashani is a talented tarot reader and she personally connects with her messages.  

“What I gain from being a Super Follower of Ashani is not only do I get more content, but I am helping her expand as a creator,” Luminary said. “I am letting her know that there's people out there who care about her work and genuinely want to hear what she has to say.”

Benefits of having Twitter Super Followers

Your supporters are what makes your business and content thrive, and Twitter Super Followers is a great way to provide them with special content that, hopefully, will allow them to forge a stronger connection to your work. Twitter Super Followers can provide the following benefits to you and your business.

Streamline the amount of platforms you use

As a content creator, it can be hard to jumble multiple social accounts. The fact that Super Followers allows you to host a subscription service within Twitter is a big plus for Ashani.

“I will say that I enjoy [Super Followers], because it's all seamless,” she said. “It's just a click of the button. All you have to do is press a little drop down menu and say, super followers versus everyone. So it's a lot more simple. It's all in one place. I do enjoy that.”

Using this feature may make it possible for you to limit the number of other subscription based platforms you're active on, like Patreon or Ko-Fi, reducing the amount of toggling you’ll be doing between accounts throughout the day. This can also allow you to spend more time curating specific content for Twitter and your Super Followers.

Deepen your relationship with followers

For Gary, Super Followers has been a great way for him to open up on a more personal level with his biggest supporters. The actor is able to go beyond discussing work related matters, and introduce a more intimate side of himself.

“Super Followers might get some [more personal] videos of me because it's something that's a little bit more intimate that I wouldn't necessarily show a lot of people,” he said.

The feature has made it possible for him to get to know his Super Followers better, making the relationship feel mutual instead of one-sided. This is not something he’d be able to do with his account’s main following as it would be quite difficult to get to know over 20,000 people intimately.

Your Super Followers will also stand out to you when they interact with your normal content, too – thanks to the handy badge next to their name – meaning it will be easier to engage with them whenever they comment on your general tweets as well.

Add a new source of revenue

While you may not be able to rely solely on the income coming from your Twitter Super Followers, it can be a great way to earn some extra cash for your content.

It’s good to note, however, that Twitter does tax some of this revenue. The social media platform has provided a helpful breakdown depicting a realistic look at what a content creator can take home from a Super Follower subscription.

How Twitter Super Followers Works and How These Creators Leverage the Feature
Source: Twitter

What to consider before opting into Twitter Super Followers

Remember, social media sites are constantly adapting and adding new tools for content creators. It may be tempting to opt into a new feature when it’s first offered, but not every feature or trend will be a right fit for you and your brand.

Since Super Followers is such a new and limited feature, there will also be a learning curve on how to best use it. As of now, there isn’t a ton of data on how Twitter Super Followers has benefited creators or small businesses.

Here are some factors to consider if you’re leaning towards having Super Followers on your Twitter account.

Make sure you have the capacity for it

Sometimes, it can be easy to jump on new social media trends in hopes of gaining more engagement and traction online. But in reality, it’s important to make sure you have the bandwidth to commit to these new features and channels.

While Ashani is appreciative of all of her Super Followers, she’s also aware that $5 a month is not a sustainable enough income for her to constantly be churning out new content.

“I have to be more discerning in my energy. And so I have to discern whether $5 is worth giving so much more of myself each month,” Ashani said. “No shade to all my super followers because I love them, and I'm appreciative of them, but even one of them told me that they’re [Super Following me] just to support me.”

By implementing this feature, you will need to generate more content for your Super Followers, so make sure you have the creative and emotional capacity to do so as well as enough time in your schedule.

Have a clear idea of how you’ll be dividing your content

Once you decide to have Super Followers, you will need to make extra content for this group, which means you’ll also need to sort out exactly how you’ll be divvying up your tweets. While this isn’t necessarily a negative, it may add more work onto your plate.

Now, whenever Gary plans to post on Twitter, he has to factor in what he can provide his Super Followers with versus his main following.

“For instance, my anniversary content for Rocket Power — that day I’m thinking in my head, is it worth it to post something to super followers first?” Gary said. “Or, is this an everybody thing? Almost every big tweet or any big engagement like that, I have to sort of think about the separate groups.”

Your Super Followers will be paying you for exclusive content, so it’s important to be strategic and organized when planning out tweets for them.

Don’t alienate the rest of your audience

For Ashani, a major struggle with implementing Super Followers has been her not wanting to neglect her main following. As a tarot reader, she gets most of her clients from her astrology and horoscope tweets which tend to receive tons of retweets and likes. To limit some of that content to her Super Followers can sometimes feel counterproductive.

“When I post messages, I gain clients. I gain new followers. Those followers resonate with my work, and then they book with me. And, they book with me consistently,” she said. “And if I’m only posting messages on Super Followers, yeah, that's 4.99 a month, but is it taking away from the tips I could get, the engagement I could get, the extra clients that I could get?”

Ashani does caution other content creators and small businesses owners to really think about the effects Super Followers may have on their content before jumping into the feature.

Have fun and experiment!

While Gary appreciates his Twitter Super Followers, he also hopes Twitter will provide a clearer picture on best practices for using the feature as he feels the burden is currently on content creators to navigate it.

“Twitter has to show businesses and creators the value in [Super Followers] by providing a sort of roadmap,” he said.

For now, content creators are testing the feature, using it to the best of their abilities. Ashani encourages others to try out Super Followers, but to be intentional about it as well.

“So the one thing I would say to people who are going to approach [Super Followers] is know what you're trying to offer… and what you have the capacity to offer for the price point as well. Don't overextend yourself … But consider it and have fun with it.”

Do you Super Follow anyone on Twitter? We’d love to know the content creators you’re supporting! Drop their names in our DMs on Instagram or Twitter.

https://buffer.com/resources/how-twitter-super-followers-works-and-how-these-creators-leverage-the-feature/

How I Turned a $500 Investment Into a $1 Million Online Shop in 18 Months

How I Turned a $500 Investment Into a $1 Million Online Shop in 18 Months

I believe that one of the biggest myths about starting a business—particularly a product-based one—is that you need a lot of capital to get going. While that may be true for certain industries or those who want to open with a full store of inventory, it is often possible to launch with very little.

At least, that’s how it worked out for me. When I started building Witch’s Way Craft, I had a vision for the shop it is today, with a vast inventory of candles, crystals, and all manner of magickal goods. But, with only about $500 of savings that I could afford to spend, there’s no way I could stock all of that from the get go.

Instead, I started small, letting the shop grow as my budget allowed—which happened faster than I could have ever dreamed of. A year or so after listing my first ten candles on Etsy, I was making about $1,000 a week in revenue, so I felt ready to quit my job to see what would happen if I gave it my all. Less than a year after that, I was making enough to hire my husband full-time. Less than two years later, with both of us working diligently on the business, we hit $1 million in total revenue and have continued growing ever since.

For anyone else who has big business-owning dreams on a small budget, I’m here to share some of the strategies that helped me make it happen.

I Reinvested Most of Our Profit Straight Back Into the Business

I spent 100 percent of that initial $500 on supplies to make my first candles. Once I made and sold them, I made back that initial investment, plus $500 in profit. Then I had $1,000 to invest in new inventory and business growth. As I sold more and my revenue increased, I started buying cooler vintage glass candle vessels and shopping at trade shows to add crystals to my inventory, giving customers a reason to come back and buy something new. Over time, by reinvesting the money made from sales, the store has grown from ten items to over 1,000 in stock, and we now have thousands of dollars to reinvest in building out our first brick-and-mortar store.

As a business without a lot of initial capital, I had to get used to these waves of growing, waiting for that growth to pay off, and then having the money to grow some more. It was frustrating at times to not be able to do everything I envisioned from the start, but I’m glad I didn’t let that stop me from slowly building toward it.

What about paying myself along the way? I’ve never officially given myself a salary (since the business is a sole-proprietorship, technically all of the money passes through to my personal finances), and instead my husband and I pull money out as we need it for bills and such. It’s not the most glamorous lifestyle, but it does allow us to put as much into growing the business as possible. And it’s not like we’re living in squalor: For instance, last year we were able to buy our first house. We saw it as both a personal investment and a business investment that would allow us to store more inventory without needing to rent warehouse space.

I Used Relationships to Grow My Customer Base

Throughout this growth, I’ve spent very little money on marketing, instead relying on word of mouth and relationship-building to grow our customer base.

The one big exception to this, and something that really jump-started our following, was paying for table space at local maker’s markets, craft fairs, and flea markets. The first time, I spent $40 to share a table with another vendor and made something like $300, which felt huge at the time. As I started doing more markets, I’d make $500-600 on a bad day and over $1000 on a good one.

The sales were great, but even better was to see the effect that direct customer connection could have on my business growth. People really responded to hearing me talk about my candles, the care that went into choosing the materials and making them, and what each one means to me or how it can be used. Even if they didn’t buy right away, I’d notice more local web orders come in during the days following fairs or a jump in followers on our Instagram.

I also developed relationships with other small business owners at the markets, many of whom were willing to help each other succeed. We started doing “shop shares,” where we would all share products from another person’s business in our Instagram stories or on the feed. These weren’t giveaways and we didn’t charge each other for them—they were simply in-kind sharing, and we tried to make them feel really organic instead of promotional. It always led to a nice bump in followers and reminded me of the power of seeing other businesses as community instead of competition.

I Got Creative With How I Connected With Customers

Our next big jump in growth came when I started doing live sales on Instagram. (If you’re not familiar, it’s basically like watching QVC on your phone.) I had noticed some other makers doing these, and it seemed like a craft fair but without the cost and need to transport products, and with a larger reach. At that point I had about 10-15K followers, and made $2,500 in three hours in our first sale. I was blown away, and I had fun doing it. It was just me blabbing for a few hours: Showing off the products we had for sale, talking about how I might use them in rituals, answering questions, and just showing off my personality.