9 Business Tips from 9 Years in Biz
A Letter from Courtney & Stephanie
The past 9 years have been filled with learning lessons and the excitement that comes with running a business. Our journey has continued to exceed our wildest expectations. We started Socialfly on the side of our full-time jobs in 2011, working nights and weekends for 10 months until we realized that Socialfly could be so much more than a side hustle. After a few months of planning, we decided to quit our jobs on the same day, May 4, 2012, to turn our dream into a reality—and we never looked back.
While we were naive at the undertaking of starting a business, our drive, hunger, resilience and grit propelled us forward and our business began to take off. When we started Socialfly, social media was still in its infancy. Back then, we had to convince brands of its importance. We knew social media was going to be the future of how brands would reach and connect with their customers, but even convincing them to invest in Facebook ads was an incredibly tough sell at the time. What started with a passion for helping our clients grow their social media presence, quickly evolved into a crash course for us as we learned how to execute our own business strategy, cash flow management, operational processes, hiring and managing people, business development and more. In order to scale our business, we had to step into new roles. We were no longer only Social Media Strategists, we were now entrepreneurs, or as we like to call ourselves, Entreprenistas.
From day one of running our business, we have practiced what we preached in regard to the importance of leveraging digital marketing. We landed our first clients by using social media to promote our business, and by joining several strategic networking groups, we were able to demonstrate our expertise and establish ourselves as thought leaders in the social media space. Our strategy paid off from the start: We were able to run our business profitably without outside investors. We achieved this by dividing and conquering (#DAC). We have complementary skill sets, and how much we’ve been able to accomplish stems from each of us focusing on our individual strengths in managing different areas of the business.
We are very proud of our continued growth and attribute our success to our talented team who works hard every day to propel the business forward. However, like many others, 2020 forced us to really reflect on our journey, both past and present. After much contemplation, we realized that our passion for social media had also evolved into an enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and inspiring and empowering other women. Our Entreprenista Podcast provided us with a platform to share secrets of successful business women with the world. With each new episode, we realized how inspired these recordings left us feeling. It reminded us of the advice, guidance and support we received from fellow Entreprenistas who helped us when we first started. The idea that we could do the same for others on an even larger scale was humbling and exhilarating, and the feedback from our audience inspired us to continue. The traction we built over time resulted in a community of passionate women eager to share stories to empower and help one another grow.
In the past few months, it’s become evident that in order to see this platform reach new heights, it demands more focus and attention. We realized if we were going to help even more women, one of us would need to dedicate ourselves to this mission full-time. So, we founded Entreprenista Media, a platform dedicated to inspiring and empowering the current and future generation of women founders and leaders to launch and scale their businesses, while surrounding them with community support.
Our new undertaking and missions require the ultimate #DAC. We decided that Stephanie will focus on driving Entreprenista’s mission forward, while Courtney will continue to grow and scale Socialfly. This new structure will allow us to continue supporting one another, focus on our strengths and give each other the opportunity to lead in our own distinct way. In doing this, we also hope to inspire other co-founders with the unique way business relationships can blossom, evolve and thrive. Much like a successful marriage, these business relationships require dialogue and alignment around a vision for the future.
As we celebrate 9 years in business together, we are thrilled to announce the launch of The Entreprenista League, a membership community designed to give Entreprenistas access to the network we’ve built. It features the proven business tools, resources and solutions that have helped us scale our business, as well as a platform to give each Entreprenista the opportunity to share her business story with a large, and powerful, audience. Our goal is to empower, inspire and celebrate as many women as possible. We invite you to join The Entreprenista League to connect with our community, grow faster and get the recognition you deserve as we share and celebrate your story and wins. We can’t wait to welcome you to our community. In the true spirit of The Entreprenista League and recognition of our 9 years in business, we’re sharing a list of 9 of our key learnings.
In 2012, we took a gamble and left our corporate jobs to launch a startup with no funding. With all of the challenges ahead of us, it would have been easy to become overwhelmed and paralyzed. However, instead of trying to plan for every potential obstacle, we just got started. If you have a great business idea, the best thing to do is start. We speak with many Entreprenistas who dream of starting a business, but are stuck trying to figure everything out before they begin. Preparing for every challenge you will face is impossible. Just dive in, you will figure it out.
In 2013, we knew that in order to grow, we needed to keep money in the business. We believed in what we were doing, so we committed to paying ourselves as little as possible and put as much back into the agency as we could. We then made the decision to use some of the money to join several networking groups. Over time, the connections and relationships we made through these communities were transformative. The support and guidance these entrepreneurs offered was amazing and allowed us to take our business to another level. While investing more into a business can seem like an impossibility for a cash-strapped entrepreneur, making this sacrifice can pay itself back several times over.
NETWORK WITH INTENTION AND KINDNESS
While networking has been a big part of our success, it wasn’t always that way. It’s not just about the groups you join or the events you attend, it’s what you do with them. In 2014 we made a serious effort to network with more purpose. We identified the type of professionals and introductions that would help us and were sure to be very specific in what we asked for. We also set goals for each meetup and event. Even more importantly, we focused on building relationships and trust by asking others how we could help them, and following through on it. In networking, you get what you give. Find a way to genuinely connect with and help someone and it will all come full circle.
POSITION YOURSELF AS A THOUGHT LEADER
In 2015, we published our first book, Like, Love, Follow, to establish ourselves as thought leaders. While there were already numerous books on social media for business, we were still able to differentiate ourselves with our unique voice and point of view by gearing the book toward female entrepreneurs. It established who we were, what we do, and how we could help. The book was #1 in the New Business Consulting category on Amazon and both clients and prospective clients were impressed with our knowledge. Whether it be a book, article, presentation or speaking engagement, finding a way to share your story and highlight your professional strengths does wonders for your business and credibility.
STAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE
The one constant in social media is change. Platforms and their capabilities are continuously evolving, and trends quickly come and go. In 2016 we knew that influencer marketing was about to become one of the most important channels for brands to reach and resonate with their audiences, and we began to build out our new division. Similar to when we started Socialfly and we were ahead of our time, we knew we had to go all in on influencer marketing even before some of our clients were ready. This capability immediately set us apart from other social media agencies that were only focused on organic content. Finding ways to innovate will keep your customers coming back for more and also help you expand your customer base.
MAKE IT SCALABLE
In 2017, our business was still in fast-growth mode. We decided to expand into a larger, more professional office and for the first time ever signed a 5 year lease. Our office was going to be designed exactly how we needed it. Looking back, this was a big moment for us and the team. Around that time, we also decided to hire a consultant to help us with our operations and put processes in place to help us scale. We restructured and our team of social media generalists pivoted to a team of specialists. With every growth spurt comes the need to re-calibrate and set up new operating procedures to support growth. We highly recommend that you review your operation quarterly and yearly to assess what changes need to be made to get to the next level. These changes include organizational structures, talent assessments, software investments, and deciding how to refine your product. Always look for ways to improve efficiency.
When we first started Socialfly, we were amazed by how generous other entrepreneurs were in sharing their experiences and support. Knowing all they had on their plates, we were humbled by how much time, effort and energy others put into helping us figure things out and grow our business. We were never shy to reach out and ask for help, but we also always offered to help in return. As our agency began to grow, we started to receive a lot of requests from entrepreneurs wanting to pick our brains. Just as people helped us, we wanted to help every entrepreneur we could, but we quickly realized that if we were to go out to coffee with everyone who reached out we would never have time to run our core business, Socialfly. We started to think: How could we help as many women as possible and not just share our story over and over again but share all of the stories of successful women who are growing businesses? That is why we launched the podcast in 2018, to give back to others and inspire the future generation of women founders and leaders. While giving back isn’t always going to directly help your business, it’s always the right thing to do.
PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED
While we know things never go according to plan, it is important to plan for the unexpected. At the end of every year, we always set our goals and put plans in place for the year to come. In 2019, the year started off with everything going wrong. One of the biggest challenges we faced that year was that Stephanie had a very complicated pregnancy and ended up being on bedrest for 17 weeks living each day in a state of unknown. We had never planned for what could happen to the business if one of us was not physically in the office. To top it off, we were dealing with many new other business challenges at the time. We took each day as it came. It was the most stressful time in business and looking back it prepared us for the year 2020 turned out to be. Always put buffers in your plan to account for what can go wrong. For example, add in more weeks to your deadlines or plan to spend more money than you thought you would.
PIVOT AND STAY RESILIENT
After getting through a year like 2019, we felt like we could conquer anything. Little did we know, an even bigger challenge was about to turn the world upside down. In March 2020, we were forced to take our business remote for what we thought would be 2 weeks. Two weeks has now turned into indefinite. We remained optimistic each day that the situation was temporary but with businesses closing, people getting sick, and our clients pausing or reducing contracts, we knew that we needed to take a step back and figure out how to plan for this new reality.
We decided to really lean into working remotely, as we saw how productive and efficient we can be and our team surveys indicated that they liked it too. We put processes in place to make it the best experience possible and keep our culture strong. We also invented a product to make remote working better. Our first product, DigiCards, was created as a tool for us to use for ourselves and increase collaboration in team video meetings. It worked so well we decided to launch hellodigicards.com to help other people engage in their video meetings. We also decided to create a business plan for Entreprenista Media and re-imagine what the future of Socialfly was going to be, a remote agency focused on helping brands set a new standard for how to reach and engage women audiences. Pivot when needed and do not get discouraged by setbacks.
Thank you for following us on our journey. We hope you found these tips helpful and we are looking forward to supporting you in The Entreprenista League.
With gratitude and love,
Courtney & Stephanie