By Pia Beck | Founder of Curate Well Co.

What it means and what it takes for women-identifying entrepreneurs to overcome the hurdles of moving from side-hustle to CEO and a self-employed career.

The message appeared in the chat box: How can I go from solopreneur to CEO of an excellence-oriented brand? How do I transform from an online business to a company with a team? 

Her message sparked something in me — mostly pride in the community that we’ve built and that they ask questions like this. And also curiosity. Because this is the thing we’ve done uniquely at Curate Well Co. over the last few years, admittedly without realizing it at first. 

According to Zapier, 34% of Americans have a side hustle and an additional 24% of Americans plan to start a side hustle. With almost 60% of our population interested in starting small businesses, there’s no shortage of opportunity to start getting your work out into the world.

But how many solopreneurs become CEOs? And, a better question, in my opinion: how can women run their businesses like businesses in order to build brands that are bigger than them? 

I’ve witnessed and shepherded so many women into full-time entrepreneurship, but unfortunately, the online business space glazes over many of the nuances that come with growing your business beyond that initial threshold of viability. 

What it Means to Build a Brand That’s Bigger Than You

Curate Well Co. serves women-identifying business owners who often leave successful corporate careers, high-profile-client portfolios, and impressive (by anyone’s standards) resumes to do what they do best — in their own way, on their own terms, and to impact more people. Most importantly — they have a vision that’s bigger than themselves. Bigger than the service they’re currently providing. Bigger than their social media engagement. Bigger than what their industry is even currently aware of. And so we connect their half-baked big-picture vision with the difference-making details to help them to build their business to be bigger than them.

Building a bigger-than-you brand starts with knowing what your company is here to do and what it will be for your community and consumers — outside of your name and the service you provide.

Rather than thinking about yourself as the authority-led figurehead of your business, take a community-based approach to business-growth: 

  • Understand the mission of your company, and what you make possible beyond the transaction of the product you sell
  • Define your company values, that create a sense of belonging for your consumers and ultimately have them feel like they’re a part of something they believe in
  • Harvest deep awareness of your consumer, as a whole person, not just someone with goals and challenges, so you can serve them holistically (and subliminally)

How to Engage and Enroll a Community

Since thinking bigger than solo-preneur requires taking a community-based approach to business growth, knowing how to enroll people into a culture and community is key. Enrollment is effective if approached in a multi-channel way: 

Logistical Enrollment — How do you immediately and logistically support someone’s presence?

Example: Have an introduction (and response) protocol when someone new joins your community, so they know what to do as soon as they enter.

Emotional Enrollment — How do you make someone feel known as an individual? 

Example: Use and remember people’s names and weaving in personal (NOT copy-pasted) personal details in comments, DMs, on webinars. 

Connective Enrollment — How do you make someone feel like they belong? 

Example: Introduce two people in your community to each other, once you know about their shared backgrounds, experiences, or interests. 

Service Enrollment — How can you be of service to make someone feel supported? How can you take care of something they don’t know how to do themselves?

Example: Send your client materials, notes, or documents at the beginning of the week, prior to your calls with them so they’re able to come prepared to the call, add questions ahead of time, and pull up the document with you.

Follow Through Enrollment — How can you leave someone feeling complete with their interaction with your brand? 

Example: Ask your clients and community members to give you objective feedback. Don’t just capture their transformation in your offboarding form, specifically ask them about what their experience actually was. 

When you can complete this series of interactions with a person who comes in contact with your brand, you’ll effectively enroll them into your community, planting a seed for engagement, longevity, and referrals.  

What People Aren’t Talking About When it Comes to Being the CEO of Your Business

Unfortunately, navigating from solo-preneur to CEO or online-business to excellence-oriented company isn’t only about enrolling your community. There are so many functions of business that largely aren’t considered or talked about if you’re only listening or learning from the solopreneur perspective. 

When you think beyond yourself and start to approach building a company, not just a personal brand, you might experience the following: 

If you’re going to run your business like a business, you have to think about profitability — and how it’s distinct from your take-home pay. This involves weighing your personal gain against business operations. 

Profitability 

My suggestion: dig deep into your AR/AP analysis so you can optimize cash flow, objectively budget, and save for expansion. 

Care personally, but don’t take it personally 

Increased scale means increased exposure — which means more opportunities for you to take things personally. More risk, liability, and opinions thrown your way comes with the increased revenue from growing your business. Your task: care personally about your clients as you grow, without taking things too personally. 

My suggestion: clear, concise, committed communication goes a long way. Prioritize professionalism, and run your business from strong core values. 

Making hard decisions 

Massive decision fatigue is something people don’t talk about re: “stepping into your role as CEO”. I’m not sure about you, but most days I can’t even decide what I want for dinner because I’ve had to exercise this muscle in so many other ways throughout the day. 

My suggestion: always confirm receipt of a question you get, and share a by-when with the sender so they know when to hear from you (if it won’t be today).

Own your role as the owner of your business 

While it may be of your creation, and you may be the figurehead, your business isn’t just you. So, you have to make decisions on behalf of the company, not just on behalf of yourself. 

My suggestion: ask yourself, what will set my team up for success? What’s best for my clients? What honors the impact I want to have? 

Ebb and flow is a natural part of evolution

A timeless truth is that there are seasons of pause and seasons of push, and our priorities are different in different phases of business growth. Part of running your business like a business is being able to envision, plan for, and execute beyond this month or this quarter. When you can do this, variances in revenue, profit, team size, customer volume aren’t a major concern. 

My suggestion: forget about short-term, constant upwards growth. Think about where you want your business to go long-term, and operate from that standard, rather than the one set on social media. 

Why You Need to Run Your Business Like a Business

There’s a big difference between running a company as a CEO and operating a social media business as a solopreneur. But why does this even matter? 

Because your industry is calling for something different, and you are it. Because more people need to hear your message, and with the right approach, it can be amplified. Because your work matters. You deserve to create uniquely and get paid generously, but more than that — the people who will be impacted by you and your work deserve it too.

___________________________________________________________

Pia Beck is CEO of Curate Well Co. She’s a business consultant and Chief Strategy Officer to our clients and coffee enthusiast. She believes logistics are a love language, considers building spreadsheets an art form, and is happiest with the sun on her face.

Curate Well Co. is a consulting and community platform for impact-driven innovators and entrepreneurs who want to set a new standard and scale with intentionality by catalyzing community.

Through strategy and structure, custom-curated solutions, and the resources you need to access the right opportunity and extend your reach, we’ll partner with you to execute your vision with ease so you can impact hundreds of thousands of lives. 

We take a community-based approach to brand- and business-building, love to dig into the data to make big decisions, and believe that women can change the world without wearing makeup. Curate Well Co. has been featured in Entrepreneur, Darling, Create & Cultivate, Rising Tide Society, and more, and has collaborated with brands like Bumble, Havenly, and Lululemon.

Follow Curate Well Co. on Instagram for more community tips: https://www.instagram.com/curatewellco/

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