Marketing is the Product Podcast
Podcast: Maureen Mwangi on Building Brands & Helping Others
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Maureen Mwangi grew up in Kenya where entrepreneurship was not the norm. In fact, her mom and dad were the only entrepreneurs she knew. As a little girl, Maureen listened with fascination as they discussed their product strategies around the dinner table almost every night.

Today, Maureen is one of the most sought-after brand growth experts because of her unique track record for launching and scaling recognizable brands. She is the creator of Big Brand Academy, The Product Profit Lab, and Startward Consulting. She may not be a “shark” just yet but she’s the big fish her clients need to become market leaders in their category with real, data-driven brand growth strategies that stand the test of time. This work fuels her passion-project: Taji Foundation – a non-profit organization she created to support boys in Kenya to get the education they need to lift their families out of poverty and build generational wealth.

From Maureen’s bio

Join us as we dive into Maureen’s story, how to build a brand, and the steps you can take to improve your business. 

Show Notes

40s – Maureen’s introduction
4:00 – What did you learn from your parents in regards to entrepreneurship
10:37 – What were the events following your education here in the US
14:50 – What do big brands know that growing brands might not know
18:45 – How does business to business marketing differ from business to consumer marketing
22:40 – Tips to financial freedom: lessons from Maureen’s mentor
29:00 – Talking more about Maureen’s passion project: Taji Foundation
33:40 – Advice when thinking about starting a business: getting it off the ground
38:40 – What Maureen is passionate about aside from work
44:30 – Reflection on life, perspectives, and final thoughts…

Startward Consulting: https://www.startwardconsulting.com/

Brandon: Hello everybody, welcome to the Marketing is the Product Podcast. I’m Brandon Rollins here today with my co-host, Pierson Hibbs and special guest from Startward Consulting, Maureen Mwangi. So I wanna kick us off on a really positive note just by reading your bio right off of the one-pager which you provided to us, because I think this is going to do a really good job of describing who you are and what you’ve done really quickly, so we can jump right in the questions. Alright, here we go.

Screenshot from Startward Consulting.

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Maureen’s introduction

Brandon: So Maureen Mwangi grew up in Kenya where entrepreneurship was not the norm. In fact, her mom and dad were the only entrepreneurs that she knew. As a little girl… As a little girl, Maureen listened with fascination as they discussed their product strategies around the dinner table almost every night. As she got older, she became acutely aware of the financial freedom business ownership afforded her family, along with access to more opportunities. Maureen quickly learned that the secret to her parents’ business success was reputable, trustworthy product-based brand that they created. While others were taking shortcuts and selling commodities on the cheap, Maureen’s parents focused on developing a reputation that was unparalleled in their market. Her curiosity for building breakout brands became the seed for what would ultimately become her voyage overseas in search of higher education in the US.

Brandon: Years later, armed with a master’s degree in marketing, Maureen quickly ascended to leadership and began to build some America’s most beloved brands from Lays to Chobani to L’Oreal to Dove. I’m just gonna let that one sit there for a minute. She mastered the billion-dollar brand building strategies and most entrepreneurs never had the resources to access, and in doing so, she discovered her zone of genius, the rare ability to connect with the market and turn real data into brand growth strategies to drive multi-million dollar growth.

Brandon: Today, Maureen is one of the most sought after brand growth experts because of her unique track record for launching and scaling recognizable brands. She was the creator of Big Brand Academy, The Product Profit Lab, and Startward Consulting. She may not be a shark just yet but she’s a big fish for clients in need to become market leaders in their category with real data-driven brand growth strategies that stand the test of time. This work fuels her passion project, Taji Foundation, I hope I pronounced that correctly, a non-profit organization she created to support boys in Kenya to get the education they need to lift their families out of poverty and build generational wealth.

Maureen: Amazing, such a nice introduction. Thank you for doing it so well.

Brandon: Well, thank you. And there’s so much here that I wanna ask about, and I guess I’ll just start with something basic. So you say that your parents were entrepreneurs in Kenya, which as you describe it, is not the norm. So first of all, what exactly did they do as entrepreneurs?

Maureen: So my parents have a home repair company, so in the US, it’s synonymous to a Home Depot, Lowes, and they literally sell building and construction materials. They’ve done this for over 25 years. So it was actually the business that my grandfather used to run when he was alive, and so he handed it over down to my father.

Pierson: Oh wow.

Brandon: Wow.

Maureen: It’s generational wealth. [chuckle]

Brandon: Yeah. So this is a family business.

Maureen: Yeah.

Brandon: Absolutely. And so I’ve gotta imagine that when you’re raised by entrepreneurs, that has a pretty profound impact on you as a child, what kind of things did you learn from them that you don’t think you would have learned from anywhere else?

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What did you learn from your parents in regards to entrepreneurship

Maureen: I think the two things that my parents taught me, and that’s a really great question, ’cause everybody asks me why I’m able to do the things I’m able to do, number one is grit. Because like you read in my bio, at the point in which my parents’ business was scaling, the markets in Kenya had actually opened, so it was so much easier now to travel to places like China where he could actually import products of a lesser quality and then mark up at an unreasonable price. And so for people who had really grown their businesses through sheer hustle and grind and hard work, it got to a point where if somebody could copy what you were doing, all your efforts seemed redundant.

Maureen: So seeing my parents go through that process of, first of all, losing over a million dollars in one instance where somebody robbed them off and bringing themselves back up as if nothing happened, was just a clear indication that in order for you to be successful in entrepreneurship, you have to have grit and perseverance. And perseverance in the sense that by the time my parents were becoming established, they had ready down this business for 20 years. Like one of my mentor typically says, entrepreneurship is 10 to 15 years in the making and the success you see from somebody means that they’ve been grinding and hustling for a very long time, it’s not just instant success. So those are the two things I would say, and it’s something that really motivates me and pushes me up until today, because I never look at the instant results, I’m always thinking long-term and building my business from a futuristic standpoint rather than our current situation right now.

Pierson: Well, with that in mind, Maureen, what was one of the first moments that you felt like you were starting to plant those seeds for later benefit?

Maureen: I would say when I was a teenager, so having parents who were entrepreneurs meant that we never got anything handed over to us, so we always had to work for anything we wanted. So as a small girl, of course, you wanna do your hair, you wanna do your nails, my mom and dad never gave me money, they actually told me to go and earn my money in order to afford the lifestyle that I wanted to have. And that’s at the age of 13 and 14. That’s when my first entrepreneurship experience started, so I started selling… I got part, I got into network marketing, so I started selling cosmetics from the UK, the company is called FM Cosmetics, which is a network marketing company, and through that, I learned how you need to have customers, you need to have an audience. You need to start building a brand for people to trust you, and I made a few… I would say I made a few dollars and then the business collapsed ’cause I didn’t even know what I was doing. Then soon after I started a bakery, I was just learning how to hustle, sell products, the business collapsed and I realized something is not right.

Maureen: I was like, why am I doing all this and I’m not able to make any progress? And that’s when I started getting interested in understanding branding and marketing, because also my dad would say the reason why he’s not been able to grow and scale his business as fast as he would have wanted it to grow, is because he didn’t understand branding and marketing. So with that, I decided to pursue higher education in Business Analytics, also known as marketing analytics, and that’s what made me move over to the US.

Brandon: So it was really coming from a place where you saw that the lack of understanding of marketing and branding was what fueled your desire to really master this field in order to apply it to your own life and find your own success within your own ventures.

Maureen: Yes, exactly. And also to help my parents. You see like what I mentioned, this is like coming from my grandpa was like, I can’t be the person to see my parents’ businesses going down, so I also had that determination to let his legacy continue living on.

Brandon: See, a couple of things about this really stand out to me. First, what you just mentioned is, this is why I like marketing, because you can take somebody who works really hard and has a genuinely great product or service, but you have to find the right way to pitch it and the right way to spread those messages in order for them to be able to really achieve their full potential. And it is so incredibly satisfying when you find somebody who’s got that potential and you’re able to actually help them meet it, just by some general good marketing best practices. That just feels really good. I’m also struck by the fact that you mentioned you had had a couple of, a handful of different business experiences before you ultimately landed on something that you were going to do next, which in your case here was education, ’cause I find a lot of people… It’s like business number five that takes off, it’s never the first iteration of something unless they’re really, really lucky, and this seems to be the case regardless of how much you’re going into business with in terms of experience or money or background, you just have to try things and a lot of them won’t work.

Maureen: Yeah, absolutely, ’cause also when you think about it, you have to have the entrepreneurship mentality. An entrepreneur is a risk taker. So when you are trying and testing things, you have an appetite for risk, and I think just growing up in an environment where I can put money, see if I’m gonna make a return, if I don’t jump onto the other thing is pretty what has kept me going because a lot of people actually give up, you know.

Brandon: Yeah, yeah, ’cause it’s scary, it’s difficult. There’s a lot of valid reasons to give up as well, but I guess this goes back to grit too, doesn’t it?

Maureen: Yes.

Brandon: You have to have the grit to keep going.

Maureen: Yeah, you have to. And you have to have a purpose that’s bigger than you, it’s not about the money.

Pierson: So that purpose for you started with relocating from Kenya to the US to pursue that higher education.

Maureen: Yes, to go back to Africa and save the businesses that everyone is trying to start, but never become successful.

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What were the events following your education here in the US

Pierson: That’s awesome. I love that. So when you came to the US and you started pursuing your education, what were the things that happened following your degree, ’cause it says here you got a master’s degree in marketing or in business analytics. So in the time after your education, what were you able to do to start working for some of these companies like Lays to L’Oreal and Dove?

Maureen: So the first thing, I was really lucky, I got an opportunity to work with Nielsen Company, it’s a market research agency, and this company really supports the big brands and everything, it can be marketing, it can be bringing new products to life, so I was fortunate enough to sit in the predictive analytics division where clients would come in, so for example, Dove would come in with an idea and they really wanted to… For example, they wanted to test an in-shower gel body lotion, and I was part of the team that would test the feasibility of that concept so we’d really doing market research with consumers, we’re really using the internal proprietary tool to predict the sales of the product in the first year, the second year, the third year, and really give the company recommendation on whether this concept would be successful.

Maureen: So I did that for so many companies and that gave me an understanding of what it actually takes to bring a product to life. And soon after I was like, Okay, now I have an understanding once I’m… On the client… On the agency side, I really want to now work on the client side as a brand consultant, supporting a big brand manager, and that’s what led me to move over to PepsiCo under the Lays brand. And there I really worked on what it takes to get into retail, what metrics buyers actually look for, what it takes to be a category leader, so you’re talking to brands, you’re working with brands like Frito-Lay, which really own the salty snack category, what it looks like to defend your share, what it looks like to position a brand for success, packaging redesign, and I really got the entire 360-degree view of building a brand from the ground up, and also making sure that a big brand still maintains its market leader status and never loses its equity.

Brandon: I think the one thing that’s starting to stand out really early on in this for me, Maureen, is like what you said, the grit that you have to really take the time to sharpen all of these tools, not just focusing on one area, ’cause I’m sure you could have stayed at PepsiCo or Dove doing predictive analytics. And you would have been just fine. But you’re taking these experiences that you’ve had with these companies, learning these different skill sets to apply them to what you want to see happen within your own life and within the people like your sphere of influence, wanting to go back to Kenya and make an impact on these businesses that don’t have that understanding.

Pierson: I think it’s really valuable to work in a lot of different places so that you can develop that kind of breadth of experience, because that’s what makes a difference between somebody who can come up with a really great strategy in one super specific area, and somebody who can execute a bigger, larger plan regarding an entire company’s strategy, because you have to have that context in order to be able to make an informed plan in the first place.

Maureen: Oh, yes, absolutely. And for me, I think my last experience, the company I worked for was really getting the opportunity to see how a small brand becomes a big brand within a big company, because oftentimes, the biggest objection I get when I’m working with clients is, Hey, you’ve worked with very big brands, how am I sure that you can translate those big strategies to my small company? And I’m like, I’ve actually worked for a really small brand and literally from an idea to shelf and just taught me that the principles are the same, nothing changes. Marketing and branding is exactly the same it’s just that do you have the time and the patience to execute and then bring that to life.

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What do big brands know that growing brands might not know

Brandon: This is a perfect segue to my next question for you, Maureen, which is something that I saw on your sheet, which is you teach entrepreneurs big brand strategies, what do big brands know that growing brands might not know?

Maureen: Big brands know the importance of being the voice of their customer, that’s number one. Big brands really put customers at the epicenter of everything they do, of every strategy, of every innovation, of every marketing campaign, while the small brands don’t think about that. Small brands are very quick to looking at what somebody else is doing and copying that, instead of looking at who are they serving, what are they looking for, what do they really, really want? That’s a number one difference. The second thing is big brands are very big at humanizing their brand. What do I mean by that? They try to personify their brand like a person, so that they can bring that human connection that every customer is looking for, while the small brands are really looking… They just want to be behind the scenes behind the curtain doing the tiny tweaks on their website, doing the tiny tweaks on their packaging, but that’s not what actually leads to a sale. Big brands will… You can look at a big brand social media platform and you’ll notice that you do a lot of user-generated content, granted they have a billion-dollar budget, but they’re paying human beings, influencers, people who resonate with the ideal client to be the face of their brand to communicate and pass on that message, but as small business owners, we don’t want to do that.

Maureen: There’s a fear of being the person behind a brand, there is a fear of standing for your mission, there’s a fear of speaking up and just doing the work that needs to be done. [chuckle] That’s a thing that I’ve seen. And then the other thing that I have seen big brands do very well is they really articulate what they fight for and why they exist, and they do it really, really well. So for example, Dove’s mission, what they really, really fight for and what they promote is to ensure that women of all shapes, sizes, feel seen and heard, and you can see that in their marketing campaign, but small brands don’t have that clarity on their mission and their messaging. So everything just feels like a hodge podge of things, and then they get so confused as to why people are not buying from them.

Brandon: And I feel like you can also see this just in the variety of the products that they have as well. And I also feel like there’s really no excuse not to have at least some level of human touch on a brand, ’cause let’s take, for example, to the ultimate extreme, something like an airline which survives through mergers and acquisitions and has had its identity changed multiple times over and over and over again. And in addition to that, it’s regulated so tightly in what they’re allowed to do, even on top of all that, you get on any Delta flight, any American flight, any flight anywhere, and it’s always gonna be stirring music while they’re playing, the video that shows you how to survive with the life reservoir on it and stuff like that. They’re all gonna be doing something on social media, they’re all going to be picking font in these kind of fonts and colors that reinforce whatever it is they’re going for, which is often just like, competence, we are going to keep you safe. That kind of thing. And even like an absolute extreme, a place that should be completely hostile to any form of personality, they still manage to find a way to make it happen. So Pearson, if you don’t have a segue, I actually have something that I’m curious about.

Pierson: Go for it.

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How does business to business marketing differ from business to consumer marketing

Brandon: So as I understand it, you specialize in product marketing instead of, say business-to-business, can you talk a little bit about how say, business-to-consumer marketing is different than business to business?

Maureen: Oh, yes, yes. So I do a lot of direct to consumer. So business-to-business marketing is very different from business-to-consumer marketing because even the end user is different. So for direct to consumer, you’re selling to the final person who will actually receive the product, where for business-to-business, you’re selling to another institution or to a team. When it comes to the marketing strategies, B2B tends to be a lot more relational, it’s a longer buying cycle, you have to build that relationship, do… It could be either through a networking event, keep in touch, and then later on the sale will happen. For the direct to consumer, a lot of times, especially because I work with beauty brands, the marketing is really reinforcing your credibility, reinforcing why I should buy the product, showing people how to use it, telling people what the results are in addition to your other people or your customers sharing the experience. So it tends to be a lot more personal and informal compared to B2B.

Brandon: That makes a lot of sense. And also, I think it’s just because, if you say, for example, that business-to-business is marked by having a longer sales cycle, with business-to-consumer, that means you’ve gotta get their attention pretty quickly.

Maureen: Yes.

Brandon: So I would imagine that a lot of the relationships that you nurture in B2B, with B2C, that looks like you create the relationship in a way with branding, with just the simple tools of communication you have just to get somebody’s attention right there in the moment for that snap decision or that decision seven days later.

Maureen: Yes, absolutely. That’s why messaging for B2C is very important. It’s actually, the first thing that you need to do, you need to clarify and hone in on your messaging before you even start selling something, because it’s that messaging that will actually convert and sell.

Brandon: Now, that’s interesting because I feel like the messaging that you would put out there would depend on whether your product’s brand new or whether it’s established, so how would you say that messaging should be… Messaging strategies, rather, should be determined based on life cycle of the product?

Maureen: I actually think messaging is not determined by the life cycle of the product, messaging for B2C is determined by what the product actually does and who it’s intended for. So I’ll give you an example, let’s say you are selling us… You have a snack company and you’re selling snack boxes, and you’re selling these snack boxes to women, because you know that moms have a very busy life, they’re just always on the go. So you package these snack boxes to include snacks that give them the right nutrition and actually satisfy them while they’re running up and down. If that’s your messaging or if that… Oh, sorry, if that’s your product, then your messaging should be tailored around that. So for example, if you’re doing a campaign, you’re going to do a campaign around a mom hustling in the morning to get their kids to daycare or to school, while they get stuck in traffic, they’re really hungry, instead of doing a Starbucks drive through or a Dunkin’ Donuts drive through and get something that’s really dense in calories, you can pull out the snack kit, your brand snack kit, that already includes, let’s say, a protein bar, an oat meal bar and some blueberries that would actually give them the right nutrients that they need for their body at that particular time.

Brandon: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That’s a good example.

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Tips to financial freedom: lessons from Maureen’s mentor

Pierson: Maureen, so I see it down here on the suggested questions, you have a phrase, “Never abandon what could be a seven-figure brand for a six-figure paycheck.” Can you elaborate a little bit more on what you mean by that?

Maureen: Oh, my God. So that phrase was coined by… It was coined by my mentor. So we talked about how my entrepreneurship journey started with my parents, but then also we talked about how I got the opportunity to work with large organizations, and I did now get the chance to have a paycheck, get comfortable, have a constant stream of income, and we… That comes, some comfort, that comes some, some level of, okay, I’ve made it. I think I’m good. So at that point in time, I was… I started my business as a side hustle, so I was working full-time, and my business was my hobby, like all the other businesses have always been, but for some reason, this business really took off at lightning speed, and it got to a point where it didn’t make sense for me to have my full-time job, to be honest, but I couldn’t let go of this safety, certainty and security, and so my mentor told me, “Maureen, you have to let go of your six-figure paycheck to build your seven-figure empire.” So technically, what that… What that saying says is you have to let go of safety, certainty and security to run after your dreams, chase your purpose and actually to transform the lives that you’ve always desired to do so, and the only way you can do that is just by taking a leap of faith and allowing everything to unfold and really becoming the person that is required to be successful, so literally behaving like you have the confidence so that you can attract that into your life.

Brandon: As someone who has taken that leap of faith within the last couple of months myself, I gotta say, it makes a huge difference to have that additional time in your day, and it also makes a huge difference to be doing one thing at a time, just one big goal to focus on in your career. It’s really, really hard to overstate how much that changes the way that you can approach problems and how much easier it becomes to do what you need to do. Now, but that might not… A lot of people, of course, are afraid, understandably, of leaving their positions, of leaving behind, say a six-figure paycheck or even a nice five-figure one. So what signs would you say that somebody should pay attention to that would tell them that they’ve got a potential seven-figure brand on their hands?

Maureen: If you have learnt a system of making sales and having leads and customers, then you are ready to leave, but then also you have to ask yourself, why are you scared? And one exercise that I typically tell my clients to do is this, when you’re working for someone else, you have a job description and you have duties, responsibilities and roles that you have to make sure that you accomplish in a month, a year, you name it. How about you create that same job description for your company? Are you going to be the person doing marketing and sales? If so, what does that look like on a monthly basis, quarterly basis, and at the end of the year? And stick to that job description like you would stick to your full-time job and the results actually follow. Because in entrepreneurship, if you take the right actions, results typically follow, and that’s why I usually say track your lead metrics, because if… Whatever you’re inputting will be the output. So if you’re inputting fear, you’re just not going to get any results, but if you’re inputting action, great, like being the person who’s ready to better themselves, being the person that’s showing up for their business like they would show up for the full-time job. Inevitably, the results actually follow.

Brandon: I think it’s really good advice to write down, like a job description, the kind of stuff that you’re responsible for and what you need to do, because I think one of the things that scares people other than just losing the pain and the benefits that they would have with a normal job, it’s really difficult to know what to do, at least if you don’t go out of your way to specify what your goals are and how you plan on getting there. But the lucky thing on the flip side is that once you actually figure out what you’re looking for, write it down, and then back into how to actually get to that, you remove so much of the anxiety that comes inevitably with extra freedom, and then it’s… Well, it’s still a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun too.

Maureen: Exactly, and then also if you’re really scared, invest in mentorship and support. Like there’s so many communities that people can be a part of right now, invest in that, and then you’ll be in a room with people going through the same thing and you’ll actually realize, I’m actually not alone, because a lot of times the fear stems from thinking that you’re going through this by yourself, but to be honest, there’s so many people who are experiencing what you’re actually experiencing.

Brandon: Yeah, I like this too, because one of the things that kept me going was I actually met a friend online just over a mutual interest in board games, it was really just that. I come to find out, he’s like the… He’s like a hot shot UX consultant and had made his own business and everything, and we got to chatting about that, and all of a sudden I realized, oh, wow, I’m not the only one doing this, and we gradually, just by chatting amongst ourselves, found more people who were doing the same thing, and eventually, without even a formal program or anything, we had this little community where we could talk about this stuff. And coaching, of course, if you’ve got the means, that’s also fantastic too, because that also can help you stay accountable as well. So there’s something about having the routine and the actual procedure around it that makes it easier to keep your promises to someone else. Now, Pearson, I don’t wanna monopolize.

Pierson: I wanna ask a little bit more about your passion project, the Taji Foundation, and am I saying that right? Is it Taji?

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Talking more about Maureen’s passion project: Taji Foundation

Maureen: That’s correct. Yes.

Pierson: Can you talk a little bit more about what that looks like and what you do for that?

Maureen: Oh, yes. Yes, my passion project that started about six years ago. So Taji Foundation is a non-profit organization that focuses on mentoring boys in Kenya by sponsoring their education through high school, so they can get into colleges of their dreams, so particularly colleges outside of Kenya. The reason I do this is because the boy child is really like the backbone of the family in Kenya, and a lot of the generational wealth stems from them. And in places like Kenya education is pretty much the gateway to anything you want in life and if you don’t have the means to go to school, if you don’t have the means to access information, granted, sort of quote, unquote, I don’t wanna say this, but “Your life is sort of doomed.” So seeing, when I was getting married, I saw the pressure that my husband had to go through, making sure that he can pay my dowry, making sure that he can talk to my father and ensure that he can support me, I was… I started thinking about that little boy who just cannot go to school, but he’s brilliant enough, and that’s when I started really putting money aside and sponsoring their high school education so that they can get into college and open up their lives so they can follow their dreams.

Pierson: That’s so incredible. And you’ve been doing this for six years now?

Maureen: Yeah. So yeah, officially, six years now, but I started with my income, I would put aside like $250 every paycheck, do this, and then now that I fully have a company, it’s really part of the company’s mission and purpose. So every sale we make, we contribute 5% to that foundation.

Pierson: Wow. So it sounds like you’ve been able to make quite an impact over the last six years.

Maureen: Yes, yes, yes. I would say yes.

Pierson: That’s incredible.

Brandon: But it has to feel…

Maureen: As I say, this business, I keep telling people, this business is bigger than me.

Brandon: It has to feel very poetic to give back to your… To give back to the community in such a custom, in such a… What am I… What to say, in such a specific way.

Maureen: And also because, like you notice, I’m in mentorship, I have programs and services that mentor people. Education is a very strong pillar and value that I hold dearly and I always want to make sure that I put my money where my… What’s that saying? Put your money where your mouth is, or something like that.

[laughter]

Brandon: Yeah, sure. No, that’s it. That’s it, yeah.

Pierson: Yeah.

[laughter]

Pierson: I love that, it’s…

Brandon: As a side bar. You should probably never literally put your money where your mouth is, money is…

[laughter]

Pierson: That’s a very good point. I don’t know how many people are actively doing that.

Brandon: That might not make the cut.

Pierson: It’s gonna stay in.

Brandon: Nice.

[laughter]

Pierson: That’s… It’s really incredible, Maureen, that you’re able to give back in that… In that regard, and I’m just curious. Have you been able to go back to Kenya since you’ve found some of the…

Maureen: Oh, yes. Yeah.

Pierson: What has that been like to go back and to work with some of these businesses first-hand and share your knowledge now that you’re at a place where you can help them grow and take it to a next level?

Maureen: It’s very humbling for me, but there’s so much fascination from their end. But then also on my end, it’s more of, “Man, we are so behind.” If only people had the right tools, if only people had the right information, we would be so far because employment in Kenya isn’t good. People don’t make money, so a lot of people depend on their side hustles, and every time I go, I do speaking events, you just see the excitement and the joy that people have to finally learn literally something small as how to market on social. So it makes you realize how sometimes when you’re in developed countries, we take things for granted.

Pierson: 100%. 100%

Maureen: We take things for granted, and people that just want, how do I put my product on Instagram? How do I write a caption? Very basic things, and I’m like, “You know what, it doesn’t take a lot to be successful.” It just takes you knowing what to do and being connected to the right person.

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Advice when thinking about starting a business: getting it off the ground

Pierson: So let me ask you this, and this isn’t from the sheet, but if you were talking to someone that’s just getting their business up and going, what would you say the three most important things to take into account are, for that person that might not know where to start or what they should prioritize, what would you tell that person who’s looking to take that jump and get their business off the ground?

Maureen: So the first thing I would say is really spend time and build the identity for your brand, and what do I mean? I want you to sit down, write, who are you, who do you want to sell this product for? Two, sorry, what should you… Back up. Go back and build the identity for your brand, what does this include? Who are your customers? What’s the benefit of your product? And then also, what does your customer typically do on a day-to-day basis? What does their lifestyle look like? Once you’ve really honed in on that, I want you to start spending time where your ideal customers are, there’s so many Facebook groups, there’s so many forums in and out of social, really go and do market research, survey what they’re talking about, survey what they’re looking for, and start to create messaging and content out there that replicates what they’re looking for, and then build a community. Don’t go and buy a product, don’t go and get inventory when you haven’t built a community, because you have to have a community of people that are ready and willing to buy, and you can only have that community when you nurture people and you’re sharing what you’re selling, why you’re doing what you’re doing, what’s the value of your product and what you’re trying to achieve, what’s… The transformation.

Maureen: That’s what I would actually tell somebody who’s starting their brand. And then the other thing I would say is, sell your product anywhere, however you can. Just don’t depend e-commerce, go to pop-up shops, go to events, do trunk sales or trunk shows, whatever… Where you can sell your product, just sell it. You just don’t have to be dependent on social in order to make money.

Brandon: That’s really good advice too, that last part in particular, because I think people forget about how many distribution channels there actually are. You’re right, you don’t have to go through social, and that’s what a lot of people do when they’re first trying to get something up, they’ll make a nice product, they’ll make an Instagram, they’ll push people to that account, and that’s about all they’ll do. In reality, it’s like there’s all these gigantic stores and they account for probably still like 85% of commerce, brick and mortar retail. I haven’t seen the latest statistics, and goodness knows the pandemic probably changed some things. But even still, I mean, brick and mortar is huge, and you don’t… And it’s not all like Walmart either, it’s all these Mom and Pop shops, and a lot of times you can just go up there and talk to a cashier and you can have a purchasing manager talking to you, like in 15 minutes a lot of the time, it’s not as hard as you think. You can at least get their email addresses, so lots of opportunities available that are just slightly below the surface of what’s obvious.

Maureen: It just… And it goes back to, you have to be willing to put yourself out there.

Brandon: Absolutely. And I feel like taking cold emails as an example, or maybe even cold calls, because those are more extreme, people still do cold calls, it’s not necessarily the best way to sell. I’m not saying that it’s the best way for most businesses, but the point is that you can make a 100, calls and if you get one or two sales out of the 100 and you’re really trying to create something out of nothing, then that one or two out of the 100 is perfectly fine. I mean, that’ll… Even 98 or 99 hang ups don’t matter, it’s the sales that actually do.

Maureen: And it’s so funny you say that because people are scared of doing cold calling, but they actually do it on social, they send cold DMs to people.

Brandon: Oh, and that works.

Maureen: Think about the cold LinkedIn messages you get or the cold LinkedIn messages you get, or the cold Facebook direct messages you get or Instagram, you’re still selling cold.

Pierson: That’s the point. Yeah, that’s really the point.

Brandon: Yeah. And I’ll actually put a figure on that. In 2017, I was trying to build up a… Basically, a chat server for people who were working on board games, and basically… Like there was a whole long-term plan and it ended up working out, but like 8-10% of people that I messaged would actually show up and join. And we’re talking about like… We’re talking about Discord, we’re talking about a software that you actually have to go out of your way and download if you don’t have it, it’s not even as common as Slack or Skype and 8-10%, that’s kind of a lot. So you’d be surprised, like if you’ve got a good pitch, you’d be surprised of how readily people will take you up on that sometimes.

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What Maureen is passionate about aside from work

Pierson: So, Maureen, transitioning a little bit from business, one of the things that we like to do towards the end of the show is we like to ask people, take business, all of your hustles away. What is… What are you passionate about? What do you spend your time doing when you’re not working? What makes you feel…

Maureen: CrossFit.

Pierson: Huh?

Maureen: CrossFit.

Pierson: Oh, yeah?

Maureen: Oh, my God, you’ll find me in the gym every single day just lifting heavy weights.

Pierson: I love that. How long have you been into CrossFit?

Maureen: I’ve been doing CrossFit for 10 years now.

Pierson: Oh, wow.

Maureen: Yeah, I love intense weights, I love competitive lifting, I love competitive competition. Literally, that’s what you’ll find doing every single day, 6:00 AM, I’ll be at the gym doing CrossFit.

Pierson: Wow. And do you ever compete with it?

Maureen: Yes, so I do… I did like four years ago, then I realized, no, I actually just like to do it for the fun of it, and also the results look very good, so…

[laughter]

Maureen: So when the results show, you’re like, “You know what, let me keep going.”

Pierson: Exactly. CrossFit is intense. I don’t think I’m able to do it without a long bit of cardio prep beforehand.

Brandon: I don’t know, dude. I feel like you and I, if we’re both super committed, we can probably do it.

Maureen: I just… I love that, so I’ll do that Monday to Friday, and then I’ve started getting into long distance biking. So I… Literally, this weekend, I did about 27 miles, so trying to build another hobby on the side. If I’m not doing that, you’ll find me having some scotch whiskey by the patio somewhere.

Brandon: Nice.

Maureen: Yeah.

Brandon: That’s a good choice. Good choice.

Pierson: Well, you have so many amazing things going on, Maureen. It’s really incredible to hear not just what you’re doing now, but the journey that you went on to get to where you’re at. And all of the trials and tribulations that you had to go through in order to be able to go back to Kenya and provide these people with the knowledge that you had acquired over the years, and really trying to make a difference in other people’s lives, which seems to be the most consistent theme throughout this episode, is how can you help other people make the biggest difference in their life?

Maureen: Yes. And then I would pause your listeners to think about that, ’cause I feel like anyone can do that. It doesn’t take much, you don’t need a lot of money, you just need to have that passion and desire.

Brandon: And aside from the CrossFit and the scotch whiskey and the distance biking, I would venture to say one of your biggest passions is making a difference in people’s lives and helping people.

Maureen: 100%, 100%.

Brandon: And it’s… When you have that passion and that’s at the forefront of your mind and in your efforts, then… You touched on it earlier, but the money kinda follows, you believe in… When you believe in what you’re doing and you believe in why you’re doing it, then everything else falls into place afterwards.

Maureen: One of my mentors told me that If you make other people’s dreams come through, your dream will come true as well.

Brandon: That’s really… That’s really good. I don’t… I’ve never heard that, but that’s awesome. That’s a really good saying.

Maureen: So if you’re into entrepreneurship, do it… It’s not entrepreneurship, if you are providing value, if you’re providing a service, do it for a bigger purpose, like have a deeper why. If you go in for the money, the money just doesn’t show up, and you will be so demotivated and you want to give up. I’ve seen it, I’ve had people who come in as clients, they have this great idea, but because their why isn’t hard enough or deep enough, they just end up giving up.

Brandon: Yeah, the profit motive alone just isn’t the greatest long-term motivator, I’ve found, ’cause once you cross a certain threshold where your basic needs are met, then what? I mean, really, what do you do? What do you do with yourself, around trying to [0:42:48.5] ____, it’s like once you cross like, I would say like $55,000 or something, and it’s not that much in a year, it’s like, what do you do? Most of your needs are paid for, you can buy luxury goods after that, but you need to have the bigger thing, ’cause it will… It makes every day a lot more meaningful than, I am going to run up a bunch of billable hours and run bills on Friday and then do the same thing next week. So much better when you’re actually helping somebody make their dreams come true, see that’s so much more motivating.

Maureen: And then you have something that you can pat yourself on the back for, because people think that If I hit… Let’s say if I hit 100,000, I’m gonna feel different. Honey, you’re just going to see the same money your bank account, and then chase for the next thing.

Brandon: No you won’t. No, you won’t. And honestly, it’s like if you’re running a business, like the day you actually cross that threshold, you probably won’t actually realize you did until you run the numbers like three weeks later.

Maureen: And then your CPA comes and tells you, “Oh, you did this.”

Brandon: See that’s the thing. That’s the thing people are like, “Oh, when I be… When I’m a millionaire, it’s gonna be a whole big thing.” It’s like, “Well, unless you check your net worth every day, you’re not even gonna notice, it’s gonna just happen.

Maureen: Exactly, exactly.

Brandon: Yeah.

Maureen: Yeah. I usually say, “Don’t chose the elusive happiness.”

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Reflection on life, perspectives, and final thoughts…   

Pierson: That’s interesting, don’t chase the elusive happiness. I also feel like that’s the hardest part not to do, though, is… ‘Cause I feel like we are all hardwired to chase after these big, big overarching life-long goals of extreme wealth and incredibly successful businesses, but it’s lost upon people to take the time to focus in on each step and why that leads to that overarching happiness.

Maureen: And maybe for me it’s different because I have family members who live on less than a dollar a day. So every time I go home every year, I see the struggle and I’m always asking myself, what am I complaining about?

Pierson: Sure, but that’s an incredible perspective to get, especially when you’re in the position that you’re in, where you’re working with multi-million dollar brands and you’re finding success within your business, and then you go home and you see, okay, well, what is all of this to me when there are people that are doing… That have happiness and that are living on far less or… It really does put it into perspective. Awesome, Maureen. I don’t have any other questions for you. Brandon, do you have anything else?

Brandon: No, I actually think this is a wonderful note to end on. And if you would like to find Maureen online, you can find all social media links as well as the link to Startward Consulting in the show notes down below.

Pierson: Perfect. Well, guys, take the time to leave a comment, leave us a like. We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Google podcasts, wherever you check out your podcast, we’re on it. Give us a listen. Once again, thank you so much, Maureen, for taking the time to come on our show, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and hearing your story. And for Brandon, I’m Pearson, and this is the Marketing is the Product Podcast, and we’ll see you guys again soon.

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