From L’Oreal and Unilever to becoming a self-employed brand & marketing strategist

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Sorah Kim is a NYC based brand and marketing strategist, writer, and public speaker. After working eight years climbing the corporate ladder at L'Oréal and Unilever, Kim gradually realized that the typical 9 to 5 grind wasn’t for her. Like many white-collar workers, she was unhappy and burnt out with her work, and decided to take matters into her own hands by becoming an entrepreneur. She began her journey by taking classes at Progress Playbook to learn more about entrepreneurship and what it takes in NYC. Today, she finds happiness and success in independently consulting with beauty, health, and wellness companies.


Sorah’s Steps

  1. Reflect on your life - are you happy?

  2. Assess your skill-set to identify your niche

  3. Experiment with ideas and concepts you believe in to secure clients

  4. Make a decision and set your goals

  5. Start and grow your business!

  6. Continue to find and pursue opportunities

 

Sorah’s Resources

  1. Social Media and Blogs (Instagram, Thrive Global)

  2. Networking Outlets (sorahkim.com, LinkedIn, TEDx)

  3. Personal Skills and Character (consulting expertise, passion for beauty and health, self-promotion, confidence)


1. Reflect on your life - are you happy?

Do you feel fulfilled working your current job? Can you see yourself pursuing something that can bring you success and happiness but are too afraid to take the leap? These are all questions Kim asked herself when contemplating leaving her job at Unilever to become a NYC entrepreneur.

2. Assess your skill-set to identify your niche

In business, there’s a niche for practically everything. Combining skills from your career with outside knowledge of what you’re passionate about can lead to great, innovative ideas. After excelling in the advertising and branding departments of top international companies, Kim was able to confidently boast her expertise in branding and marketing. By leveraging her professional experience and personal passion for beauty and health brands, she was able to create a niche working with smaller brands in those industries and promote herself to prospective clients.

3. Experiment with ideas and concepts you believe in to secure clients

The experimental phase of your entrepreneurial dreams is important. While at her corporate job, Kim picked up side-hustles (one-on-one consulting, writing blog posts, etc) that not only gave her experience in beauty and health consulting, but also gave her reassurance in her abilities. Surprisingly, Kim gained her first clients unexpectedly after introducing herself to a group of strangers at a yoga and meditation event.

While working with her first client, Kim struggled heavily with “imposter syndrome” - feeling like a fraud despite accomplishments like working in brand marketing for six years and having a Master’s Degree in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing & Management proving otherwise. She felt incompetent in her branding and marketing abilities, wasn’t used to working alone, and missed the validation she used to get from collaborating with coworkers. This stress manifested into feelings of anxiety, burnout, and depression.

Through tapping therapy, Kim was able to complete the project and ultimately gained the confidence in her abilities to eventually quit her job at Unilever.

4. Make a decision and set your goals

Visualize where you want to see yourself in a given time period - whether it’s working towards starting your own company or improving your work-life balance. Create realistic goals and work toward achieving them. For Kim, this meant planning months in advance to resign from her job. She decided to phase out from working as a full-time to a part-time employee, to help maintain stability in her life while experimenting with side-projects. This helped her to stay organized, motivated, and remain focused on her decision.

5. Start and grow your business!

Already having clients and networks from her previous projects, Kim put herself into a position of success before she officially became a full time entrepreneur. During her first week as a self-proclaimed “freelance brand and marketing strategist”, Kim found opportunities to promote herself and network, like speaking at a Business Network International event to pitch her brand in front of 50+ strangers. Before, she felt burnt out and feared the possibility of failure as entrepreneurship became her main focus. However, she came to the realization that her dive into solo consulting should be driven by freedom - not fear.

Marketing yourself, planning ahead, and constantly taking steps to work toward your goals is instrumental in becoming successful.

6. Continue to find and pursue opportunities

Look for the potential in everything and use every resources at your disposable . Network with everyone you talk to, promote your brand on social media, and don’t be afraid to approach clients are all steps Kim took to grow her business. She updates her personal blog to give advice to people looking to improve their quality of life and tell her personal struggles, and recently secured the opportunity to speak at a TEDx event about her journey of self-discovery, self-care, branding and purpose.


Sorah’s tips to gain confidence and find your purpose

  1. Cut out the unnecessary noise from your life: excessive spending on things you don’t need, wasting time on the couch, and bad influences.

  2. Reserve time to de-stress and focus on yourself. Activities like meditation, yoga, reading books, and exercise can help to clear your mind.

  3. Don’t give up! While rewarding and fulfilling, starting your own business comes with plenty of obstacles. In Kim’s case, getting over the mental block of feeling like a fraud for selling her expertise to companies was one of the many obstacles you could face.

  4. Make time to spend on doing the things you are truly passionate about. Even if it’s for a hobby or entertainment, pursuing these things will help improve your daily happiness and life.

  5. View everything as an opportunity for self-improvement! Getting over the inevitable obstacles and mistakes with entrepreneurship not only helps increase your productivity, but also benefits you as it helps to develop the character and the drive to become successful!

How this life coach gets into the press

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Pervis Taylor III is a NYC based life coach, author, and speaker. Over the last several years, Pervis Taylor has been featured in over a dozen media outlets, including Essence magazine, Black Enterprise, Fox News, The Today Show, Vibe Magazine, BET, Centric and Arise 360 to name a few

We asked Pervis to walk us through the steps he took to get one of his first features in Black Enterprise.


HOW TO GET INTO THE PRESS: PERVIS TAYLOR

Pervis’s Steps

  1. Identify the media outlets that you want to be featured in

  2. Research the editors that cover your industry

  3. Create and pitch your story via email

  4. Be persistent and follow up.

  5. Land the write-up

  6. Maintain the relationship 

  7. Secure more write-ups 

 

Pervis’s Resources

  1. G-Suite email service  

  2. Twitter

  3. Google

  4. Skills: research, copywriting, followup, persistence.  


1. Identify the media outlets that you want to be featured in

To build brand awareness and attract more clients, Pervis set a goal to either be a contributor or be featured in a national media outlet that his target customers reads and trusts. His first step was to make a list of all the media publications that he wanted to be in. One of the names that he added to his list was, Black Enterprise, because many of his followers on social media shared articles from the publication.

2. Research the editors that cover your industry

Whenever his followers on social media shared articles from Black Enterprise, Pervis studied them to see who the editors were. Pervis then researched the contact information of one of the Black Enterprise editors on their website who wrote articles that aligned with his work.

3. Create and pitch your story via email

Pervis created a short and to the point email that outlined, 1) who he was  2) what he did as a life coach 3) the impact his work was having on his clients and communities 4) links to his other media features, mentions and testimonials 5) his ask of being a contributor for Black Enterprise 6) At the top of his email he referenced and complimented the editor on her articles.

“Publications like Forbes, Huffington Post, and Black Enterprise are always looking for niche contributors. Pitch your Niche.

— Pervis

4.  Be persistent and follow up

A few weeks passed by and pervis had not heard back from the editor, so he followed up with a second email, where he asked if she had a chance to review his email and if she had an interest in learning more about his work and story.

To his surprise, the editor responded to his second email with wanting to learn more.

5. Land the write-up

After Pervis’s first conversation with the editor, he was referred to another writer at Black Enterprise, who loved his story and eventually wrote a feature on him in the magazine, entitled, From Diddy dreams to helping teens: Pervis Taylor III Story.

6. Maintain the relationship

Pervis maintained a relationship with the editor who he reached out to initially at Black Enterprise. He followed her on social media, engaged with her content and even attended several of her events. 

7. Secure more write-ups

Because of the relationship that he built with the editors at Black Enterprise, Pervis was able to secure additional features and his own column, including, passion to purpose and his contributor column 


Pervis 5 tips to pitch the press

  1. Be as niche as possible when deciding what to pitch to the press. 

  2. Be an expert in your field. Believe in your expertise and remember they need you. 

  3. Invest in having someone help you pitch. 3rd party pitches are better than doing it yourself in most cases. 

  4. Know what publications you want to be in and why. Is the publication in alignment with your market, story and work? 

  5. Don't be afraid to reach out. Be bold and persistent.

Progress Playbook Startup Story

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As a kid growing up in Brooklyn I always wanted to start a business but lacked the confidence, resources and support to make it happen. Despite my setbacks, I never stopped dreaming. I spent my career supporting entrepreneurs and business owners as a banker, teacher and public servant, and knew that I could do more. So I started Progress Playbook, a learning and business service platform for entrepreneurs. We believe that anyone who has a dream to build a business that will benefit the world should have step-by-step support along their journey.  


Below are the resources and steps I took to start Progress Playbook:

 

Lloyd’s Steps  

  1. Build an audience

  2. Create a business plan

  3. Establish your brand

  4. I quit my job

  5. Land your first customer 

  6. Set up your business foundation

  7. Tell as many people as possible about your new business

  8. Secure more clients

  9. Expand on your brand assets

  10. Hire others to support you 

Lloyd’s Resources

  1. Meetup.com

  2. Constant Contact

  3. Business plan

  4. Hostmonster

  5. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

  6. Squarespace

  7. Canva

  8. Form x-s01 for Sole proprietorships

  9. Chase, IRS

  10. G Suites

  11. Google voice

  12. Upwork


1. Build an audience

I knew that I wanted to start a business education company, so I started building my audience years before I launched Progress Playbook. I built relationships with entrepreneurs, service providers, organizations and anyone who wanted to talk about business. I built my audience largely by organizing Meetup groups, sending out business newsletters using Constant Contact. teaching business classes and always finding ways to help others. These activities and others helped me to build an audience with hundreds of people and establish my personal brand before launching my business.  

2. Create a business plan

I am a planner by nature, so I created several mini (1-5 pages) business plans that mapped out my mission, customer profiles, customer problems, solutions, product phases, potential revenue streams and my marketing & sales approach.

3. Establish your brand

Once I had my business idea and plan in place, I had to come up with a business name. I landed on Progress Playbook, because it was catchy and represented the entrepreneurship journey of making continuous progress. I purchased the Progress Playbook domain name on Hostmonster and also secured the name on all social media platforms, including, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I then hired a graphic designer to create my logo, built my website on Squarespace and used Canva for design support. 

4. I quit my job

 

After five years of working for the Department of Small Business Services and Grant Associates, managing one of their business service centers- NYC Business Solutions, I decided to quit my job. My workload was becoming more and more demanding and all I could ever think about was starting my own business. With the push of a few friends, I finally made the decision to quit my job and give my notice to my boss. I was terrified but excited about what was possible.

Because I had a great relationship with my manager, I was able to negotiate working part time for five months while I worked on my business. I also had about three months of living expenses saved and had a few teaching gigs lined up that provided consistent income.

5. Land your first customer

Interestingly, one month after I quit my job, a former colleague asked if I would be interested in being a consultant for The Actors Fund to design an entrepreneurship program for performing artist and entertainment professionals. I said, YES immediately. After a few interviews with the Actors Fund, I landed my first client, and worked with them to design the Creative Entrepreneurship Program. 

My initial business plan did not account for working with organizations to design entrepreneurship and business programs but I adjusted my plan based on this new need I found in the marketplace. 

Relationships bridge the gap between you and the next level.
— Lloyd Cambridge

6. Set up your business foundation

In order to work on my first project I had to get some things squared away. I went to the County Clerks office and registered my business as a sole proprietorship in Kings County (aka Brooklyn - my home and favorite place), because it was the easiest and least expensive legal structure to set up. We eventually switched over to an LLC a year later. I then applied for a EIN number on IRS.gov, opened up a business bank account with Chase and applied for a business credit card. I was officially in business. :) 

7. Tell as many people as possible about your new business

 

I gave myself a goal to close six customers in my first six months of business. I set up three to five meetings every week with people in my network that I thought could help me. I shared my vision and told them that I was looking for clients and support.

8. Secure more clients

The meetings paid off and I was able to secure six clients in my first six months of business. My contacts referred me to several organizations, many of whom were looking for support in designing and executing entrepreneurship and business programs.

9. Expand on your brand assets

After months of going to meetings and business events and not having a business card to give out, a colleague and friend of mine, designed and ordered my first set of business cards at a local printer. I also signed up for gmail suites and google voice to get a professional business email address and business number. 

10. Hire others to support you

I work harder now then I have ever worked before. As a solopreneur I was responsible for everything, including securing and servicing clients, developing products, business planning, bookkeeping, networking and the list goes on.

To alleviate some of the workload, I hired a virtual assistant on Upwork who supported me for 10-15 hours a week to handle the tasks that I needed to let go of, like, scheduling, invoicing, research, CRM management, email marketing and other administrative tasks.  

Whats next?

We have supported over 1,000 entrepreneurs, small business owners and organizations in NYC through our programs and services over the last 3 years. Our goal is to continue to grow by deepening our relationships and programs across the city, and expanding into new verticals, such as online classes and new innovative learning experiences.


Lloyd’s Resources

Meetup is a platform used to organize online groups that host in-person events for people with similar interests.

Constant Contact is a online marketing company that provides email marketing services.

HostMonster is a hosting solution for businesses that allows you to secure a domain (URL) name and host your website.

Squarespace provides software as a service for website building and hosting. Its customers use pre-built website templates and drag and drop elements to create webpages.

Canva is a graphic-design tool website, founded in 2012. It uses a drag-and-drop format and provides access to over a million photographs, graphics, and fonts. It is used by non-designers as well as professionals. The tools can be used for both web and print media design and graphics.

The X-s01 is a legal form If you are starting a business as a sole proprietor or partnership in New York City.

Chase is a leading commercial bank that provides business banking services, such as business back accounts and credit cards.

G Suites is a brand of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products 

Google Voice is a telephony service that provides call forwarding and voicemail services, voice and text messaging, as well as U.S. and international call termination for Google Account customers in the U.S. and Canada.

Upwork is a global freelancing platform where businesses and independent professionals connect and collaborate remotely. In 2015, Elance-oDesk was rebranded as Upwork.