5 ways businesses can benefit from following Amazon’s customer-centric growth strategy

Amazon Jeff Bezos
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

  • In 1997, Jeff Bezos promised Amazon would focus relentlessly on its customers, and it has.
  • By implementing a customer-centric mission into your own business, you can mirror Amazon’s growth.
  • Tailor your products to evolving needs, prioritize customer satisfaction, and diversify your services.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The famous words of hotelier Cesar Ritz, “the customer is never wrong,” are as true today as they were over 100 years ago. Although the sentiment has remained consistent throughout the decades, strategies and tactics to establish a customer-centric model are constantly evolving, and companies that fail to understand their customers can’t remain competitive in a packed digital ecosystem for too long.

It would be tough to find an organization with a better strategic model than Amazon.

Amazon’s current mission statement is, “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavours to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” The company’s goals have always been customer-centric. In 1997, Jeff Bezos promised Amazon would “focus relentlessly on our customers.” He also said, “We see our customers as guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Here are five ways businesses can benefit from the Amazon customer-centric growth strategy.

Read more: Writers you’ve never heard of are quietly making more than $10,000 a month self-publishing on Amazon Kindle. They share 4 tips on how to get started with no experience.

1. Make the customer your central focus

The customer is at the heart of everything Amazon does. In a 2013 interview, Bezos said, “I would define Amazon by our big ideas, which are customer centricity, putting the customer at the center of everything we do, invention.”

If you consider some of the things Amazon offers, such as Prime delivery, one-click ordering, recommendations, special deals, and real-time assistance, all of them serve to benefit the customer.

2. Release new products specific to your customers’ needs

When Amazon first started in 1994, the idea of making a digital purchase was still new. There was a long way to building customer trust in buying things online, which Amazon met because of the emphasis on customer service. Since then, the company has expanded into other products and services that all meet the consumer’s needs. Preferences will constantly change, and your products need to evolve with them.

Always focus on “who” and “why” when creating a product with your target audience at the center of everything. Test it, talk to your customers about it, and make sure it solves a problem for them. The starting point for a product definition is a customer-centric document that doesn’t concern itself with technical details. If you can’t tell customers why they need your product, it probably isn’t going to sell.

3. Invest in research and development to provide more customer satisfaction

It turns out that customers are quite willing to tell us what they want if we ask them about it and listen. Investment in research and development to understand the customer’s needs is crucial to a customer-centric growth strategy. In 2019, Amazon spent $42.7 billion on research and development (which they call technology and content). The costs reflect how the company wants to invest in numerous areas of technology and content to enhance the customer experience continually and improve process efficiency through rapid technology developments.

Customer surveys, focus groups, and review platforms are all ways that small and medium-sized enterprises can start investing in R&D. Experimentation can be initiated by employees at all levels within the company to create new knowledge, which is what R&D is all about. For every idea, ask how it will make things easier for your customers, and if there is a clear answer, it’s one worth driving forwards.

4. Diversify into new trending markets

Over the last two decades, Amazon has become a constantly changing ecosystem of products and systems, including the Kindle, Alexa, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and the purchase of Wholefoods. AWS alone is thought to produce around 50% of Amazon profits, emphasizing how diversifying into new markets can positively impact revenue. Always keep one eye on new markets so you can meet your customers wherever they are. It will foster loyalty and appreciation to ensure market diversification is a success.

5. Use innovation and creation to increase your audience

Every business should want to innovate its customer experience and continue to be unique by offering something that your competition cannot. Of course, innovation does not happen overnight, but keeping up with trends and encouraging creativity should be at the core of a customer-centric growth strategy.

Amazon responded to the “now” economy with Amazon Prime delivery to give customers free shipping on thousands of products. They also pioneered one-click ordering using pre-set options. Amazon Lockers allow customers to pick up items from numerous locations worldwide. The @AmazonHelp Twitter account handles customer queries seven days a week in seven languages. Recently, Amazon Go has introduced a checkout-less store.

The list of innovations from Amazon still goes on, whilst the customer is at the center of each and differentiates Amazon from its competition. Amazon is a multi-billion dollar business that has had several years to develop and perfect its customer-centric model. Although the capabilities of the tech conglomerate are out of the reach of the average business, these five aspects of the customer-centric model can offer inspiration from which any business can benefit.

Read the original article on Business Insider

7 ways for women to overcome imposter syndrome and climb the ranks at work

female professional talking to coworkers
Lean into anything uncomfortable and use your voice whenever possible.

  • Women are staggeringly absent from upper-level leadership positions in the American workforce.
  • To break through the glass ceiling, figure out what’s blocking you, let go of it, and take risks.
  • Consider hiring a coach or mentor to push you forward and help overcome imposter syndrome.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Women hold less than 5% of CEO positions in the US and Europe, according to Financial Times, and over two million women left the workforce in 2020. Many factors contribute to these realities, which leave women feeling tired, disempowered, and unmotivated, sometimes to the point of self-sabotage. The term “glass ceiling” was created by Marilyn Loden; the phrase is a metaphor for the invisible barrier that prevents women from achieving elevated professional success.

Despite making up 50.8% of the US population and 58.2% of the civil labor force according to the US Census, women are staggeringly absent from upper-level leadership positions in the American workforce.

Read more: 2 women entrepreneurs – one in tech, one in food – reveal what worked in getting investors on board and raising millions for their businesses

Efforts to shatter glass ceilings in the workplace and life are still underway. Over the years, I’ve seen women still hesitating, hiding, and holding back – allowing limiting beliefs, situations, and circumstances to take over. Shattering inner and outer glass ceilings is critical for change to occur. Transformational work always starts with the inner work, which creates larger impact and influence.

Here are seven ways to shatter your own glass ceilings that may be holding you back.

1. Release and redefine

Think about a belief or behavior that may be blocking you currently: What meaning are you giving it? Where did those thoughts and stories originate? Once you identify what’s holding you back, write it on a piece of paper and then go bury, burn, or release it. Then, redefine what it is that you desire. Come up with a new thought, belief, story, or behavior that you want to adopt. In every moment, you have a choice to see and create differently. What will you release and redefine today?

2. Break out of the “good girl” mentality

Growing up, girls are praised for being a “good girl” via messages reinforced by society, media, parents, teachers, and other influences. It’s your responsibility to break free from the programmed “good girl” messages. One way of doing this is to take more risks, assert your ideas, and express yourself authentically. Breaking free from what you are expected to do is the key to following your heart and your joy, which honors yourself and your truth.

3. Use your voice

A recent survey of 1,100 US working adults conducted by Catalyst, a nonprofit that works to increase women in leadership, found that 45% of women business leaders say it’s difficult for women to speak up in virtual meetings. One in five say they’ve felt ignored or overlooked by colleagues during video calls. While this happens in business and in the virtual world, this also happens in everyday life.

Women are not owning their full power or utilizing their voice because they fear others’ judgments and risk ruining their reputation. One way of strengthening this muscle is by leaning into the uncomfortable and taking imperfect action. Every time you use your voice, it makes it easier to make it a habit. Where can you start to use your voice more, regardless of how you feel? Don’t worry about what you sound like or who is judging you.

4. Find or hire a mentor, coach, or advocate

Olympians, actors, actresses, and the majority of highly successful people all have one thing in common: They have mentors and coaches to support them, guide them, hold them accountable, challenge, and push them. Personal blind spots can occur, and a third party can help you shift and show you different ways of looking at things that you may have never thought about before.

5. Praise and promote yourself

Know your worth. A study done by KPMG found that 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers. Imposter syndrome involves persistent feelings of inadequacy, chronic self-doubt, and feeling like a phony despite past and current accomplishments and successes. How can imposter syndrome be eliminated? It starts by celebrating ourselves and each other.

The first step is to remember and own all of your past successes, achievements, and accomplishments. You can set aside some time and list out every single success, achievement, and accomplishment as far back as you can remember. Praise yourself every day, write yourself a note, look in the mirror, and speak to yourself – then celebrate all of your blessings. Finally, take action and get yourself out there. Promote yourself, connect with someone new, or send that email. It doesn’t matter how you do it; it matters that you do it.

6. Ask for what you want

Do you ask for what you want? Do you ask for help and support? Asking requires vulnerability and getting over the fear of rejection. First, get clear about what the ask needs to be: What do you want and need? Then, take action because every time you take action, your confidence increases. Remember, if you never ask, the answer is always no.

7. Find a support system

Find a strong circle of support. Your environment can either make you, break you, or keep you stagnant and stuck. We are truly the average of our environments, and if someone or something isn’t making you stronger, he or she is making you weaker. Breaking the glass ceiling and finding an environment that’s going to challenge you will change your life. Research different online groups; ask friends, mentors, and people who have what you want. Success leaves clues.

Every action you take creates a legacy for the next generations to come.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX’s Rideshare is making it far easier to launch satellites into orbit. In-Space Missions explains how it’s using the program to help customers realise their ambitions.

A rendering of In-Space Missions' Faraday spacecraft that was launched in the SpaceX rocket
In-Space Mission’s tech will allow future satellites to be customizable from the ground.

  • SpaceX’s Rideshare has helped cut the timescale for getting into orbit from years to a few months.
  • UK firm In-Space Missions is using the program to develop its own customizable satellite tech.
  • It was able to send one of the 88 small satellites, or smallsats, that recently launched into orbit.

When you spend millions to build a satellite – each second you wait for its launch carries the weight of years of hard work.

Nobody knows that better than Doug Liddle, co-founder and CEO of In-Space Missions, and a nearly 30-year veteran of the space industry. He also led the design of the first Galileo satellite demonstrator, Europe’s premier global navigation satellite system.

Founded almost six years ago, Hampshire-based In-Space Missions aim to achieve a significant reduction in traditional timescales to get technology in orbit. The company designs, builds and operates bespoke missions for clients.

Using SpaceX’s Rideshare, which uses the orbital class reusable rocket Falcon 9, In-Space Missions recently sent one of the 88 small satellites, or smallsats, that went into orbit.

For large satellites, Liddle would previously have spent $11.8 million to launch one. Now the cost is around $1 million.

SpaceX has revolutionized the cost, Liddle said: “It isn’t just the slots on their rockets that are a low price. They’re also going several times a year. You can fill up a 200 kilogram slot on the rocket for $1 million, which is crazy. Compared to what it used to be.”

After having worked for the European Space Agency, the UK’s Ministry of Defence and several private firms, Liddle decided to cater to smaller businesses or early-stage startups valued in the $20 million range.

“There are people with great business ideas, who don’t know how to get their stuff into space,” he said.

Satellites provide deep insight for climate-crisis research but also have many common applications, including gathering data for credit card authorizations or even tracking wildlife.

With the advent of SpaceX’s reusable rockets, Liddle said the sky’s the limit for making space exploration more accessible.

“We’re in a world now where people can come out of university, set up a space company, and get something in space in a couple of years,” he said. “That was just unheard of even 10 years ago.”

In fact, his company is already spearheading its own technological advancements to further equalize the space race, while also making it sustainable.

Governments are increasingly implementing rules to reduce the environmental impact of spaceflight. More than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, or “space junk” are tracked by the US Department of Defense, according to NASA.

“You can’t just keep putting things into space,” Liddle said. “There is only physically so much space you can go into before you start banging into each other.”

Historically, each launched satellite has served a sole purpose. Liddle’s team, however, is not only hosting multiple customers on their satellite but has also designed technology that allows future satellites to be customizable from the ground. It’s expected to be publicly available in 12 to 18 months.

Liddle said: “We’ve developed a piece of technology that’s flying on this satellite, which we’re then going to expand and fly on future ones, that will allow people to, from the ground, upload their payload, their service, their application. So it would be like every app on your phone.”

The technology his team is developing will reduce the timescale from a few years to three to four months.

He used the analogy of using one piece of software to access Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram.

“The technology that’s available now has got us to the place where you can fly loads of people in one spacecraft,” he said. “You can reconfigure it in software from the ground and upgrade it in the same way your phone will upgrade every so many months. You can do exactly the same with spacecraft now.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

4 practices for onboarding remote workers to make sure they feel included and prepared

microsoft middle east remote work
Open communication is key for a remote team to operate smoothly.

  • Onboarding remote workers in a way that makes them included and productive is essential.
  • Ensure that everyone on the team is warm and welcoming, and schedule regular hangouts and check-ins.
  • Improve communication by having non-work discussions, and make the remote worker feel appreciated.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As a consequence of the past year-plus, more than half of workers now say they’d prefer that their employers offer a more flexible, hybrid virtual-working model that allows employees to toggle between home and the office. Even so, onboarding remote workers is a tricky affair. It’s essential to bring them on in a way that makes them feel included and sets them up for great productivity. Here’s four tips to help ease the transition.

Read more: Verizon is letting job functions determine if its 133,000 employees should work from home, in the office, or both. 3 staffers shared how their routines will change.

1. Offer a welcome from everyone, not just you

When you bring on a remote employee, you’re not just putting them under you. You’re bringing them into your larger group. If you want them to feel like they fit in, then everybody in the group has to be warm and welcoming, not just you.

As an example, just recently, I brought in a new team member from London. I had everybody shoot her an email to say hello and connect with her. We also sent her a jacket we’d created that had not just the company logo but the logo for the group she was a part of, too. This way, she was able to come into work with something all of us already had. The atmosphere was really supportive, and she felt connected almost right away because of those small gestures.

2. Set up regular meetings between you and the new employee

Staying with my London worker example, I’ve intentionally dedicated about 30 minutes a day to meeting online with her. There are two big reasons you should have these regular check-ins.

First, working remotely can get pretty lonely. Your employee isn’t interacting with others the same way they would if they were coming into the office. So, when I meet with my London hire, I have a great opportunity to break that isolation in a simple but really caring way and make sure she’s at least talking with me.

Second, you want your new hires to get to know you so you can build some trust. During the pandemic, I actually had another employee who’d been onboarded leave our business and go back to the company they’d worked at before. A big reason for that exit was that nobody had really built a relationship with them. The old saying that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers, really struck me as true. I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake, so building a connection with the London employee became a priority for me.

3. Have regular team meetings that aren’t all about work

All your workers are on your team because they bring something fantastic to your business. But they’re also human beings. If you want to understand them and build real connections, then you have to see all of who they are, not just their business side.

I have some team meetings that don’t focus exclusively on work. I get people to ask questions about each other, or I throw out questions just to help people expand their imaginations. It helps me and everyone else see how everybody thinks and operates. It also improves how comfortable we are with communicating in a more authentic way.

4. Give the remote employee responsibility right away

Any new hire is going to need a little guidance before they’re totally off and running on their own. But they still need to feel like they have an important role to play and a responsibility to get work done. This is an especially big deal for remote workers, because if they’re not going to have as many opportunities for interaction, then they need to know beyond any doubt that they’re contributing with purpose and have the trust of the team.

With my London hire, I brought her into conversations with the president of our European branch. She immediately felt connected because we dove right into business. She wasn’t just following someone around. I actually asked for her opinion, and she was able to give it to me.

No matter the role of your remote worker, be truly present with them. Instead of just running from meeting to meeting as they try to figure things out, make sure they’ve got some meaningful work to do right out of the gate. Give them easy ways to contribute, and validate those contributions early.

Remote work has hurdles, but clear strategies can get you over them

It’s still not clear just how many employees will prefer a hybrid work environment or go completely remote in the future. But the likelihood that you’ll have more people on your team who don’t regularly come into your office is only increasing. Approach onboarding your remote workers with a real strategy. If you tackle the challenges of remote environments with intentional effort, then no challenge will be insurmountable.

Read the original article on Business Insider

5 tips for using your professional expertise to launch a profitable business

businesswoman
Professionals can turn academic expertise into a business if they’re willing to take risks.

  • More trained professionals are turning their academic expertise into businesses, says entrepreneur Cohin Kakar.
  • You don’t need formal business training to be able to identify consumer demands and needs in your specialty.
  • Once you’re an expert in your craft, plan your business venture carefully but also be willing to take risks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The American education system is set up to teach and train individuals to become experts and key thought leaders in the specific fields that they choose. Given the rising costs of education, rarely can students choose more than one area to specialize in. If and when the day arrives that one wants to start a business of their own, it is quite the challenge to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship later and confidently do so. Additionally, many people have been trained in the sciences or the arts, so finance and accounting seem like foreign languages to them. So how are so many specialized healthcare professionals creating booming privately-owned businesses across the country?

As a formally trained Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.), I had a unique advantage with an MBA in Entrepreneurship before enrolling in Pharmacy School. This opened my eyes and gave me the knowledge and inspiration to one day be able to start my own business. When most people hear of the Pharmacy profession, generally, they think about their local community Pharmacist at a nearby retail location. However, the skillset attained within school goes beyond the community realm and can be extremely useful in other areas. My career, post-Pharmacy School, began in industry where I learned more about the business of pharmaceuticals which gave me the knowledge base to co-found our own health and wellness company. My advice to all of the current students that ask is that they should focus on understanding the science and craft of therapeutics, as opposed to the specific job description that they think they may land after school. Once you are an expert in pharmacology, that skill set translates into many areas from community, clinical, industrial, and yes, entrepreneurial.

Many healthcare providers have taken a similar approach, including Dr. Akash Bajaj – a pain specialist and anesthesiologist who is the founder of Remedy Pain Solutions in Marina Del Ray, CA. Dr. Bajaj and I work together with brands TIDL Sport and CytoCx, where he serves as the Medical Director and has dual degrees with an MD and MPH. Physicians like Dr. Bajaj, who has been featured on the CBS TV hit series ‘Doctors,’ have had to build the plane as it is flying and have done an incredible job in the private practice space. No matter what the specialty, individuals can leverage these tips to make the most of their expertise and turn it into a profitable business while still serving the greater good:

1. Become a master of your craft

The first step is to immerse yourself within your training and specialty and have the confidence to be a key thought leader in the space. Do the extra research, spend the time to learn all of the new information and data in your field to truly understand the opportunity within. “I have been fortunate to be involved with several top academic institutions during my training. While the training was fantastic, there were areas that I felt could be improved for the ultimate outcome of increased access to high-quality healthcare,” said Dr. Bajaj. “Thankfully, this vision has resulted in great outcomes and happy patients.”

2. Identify the needs in your specialty that are currently not being addressed

The expertise and experience will help you identify specific pain points within the area. As we see more movement towards plant-based solutions in diet and general health, there is a need for true regulation and compliance within the industry. Taking a quality-focused pharmaceutical approach has become a core initiative of ours. It results in safe products for consumers and efficacious through the pro-quality approach that we take – a unique approach within the wellness industry.

3. Plan responsibly, but develop comfort with risk

“Ready. Fire. Aim!” as Dr. Bajaj puts it, “Time was not waiting for me to be fully prepared. Sometimes you have to take the leap.” In entrepreneurship, there are no guarantees, which is quite different from some of the career paths that we have trained for our entire academic life. Guaranteed salary, retirement plans, and annual bonuses are far from promised in your own business, and it is important to adapt accordingly. Everything will not go according to plan, and it is important to find comfort with that. As long the launchpad for growth has been established – patience is the biggest challenge, not security.

4. Be an expert in your craft, and a student of your business

One of the biggest challenges that many well-trained professionals face is going from being a teacher to being a student. Expertise in science does not translate to expertise in business. Entrepreneurs must be students of their business, regulatory bodies, and the market to be nimble enough to adapt accordingly. “Issues arise, and sometimes we feel like we have no idea how to deal with it, but it is important to be open-minded and learn from those that have gone through it. If they can do it, so can I,” said Dr. Bajaj. Additionally, it’s important to respond to the market and consumer base. Many experts may have a vision of what they believe is an ideal business, but no business is successful without consumer demand, so you must be open-minded enough to cater to that.

5. Part ways with traditional structure

Hourly shifts, call schedules, and a strict 9-5 are out of the window at the exact minute that you decide to start your own business. Instead of reading about drug facts or clinical guidelines, you will find yourself learning more about customer acquisition costs and digital marketing strategies – which can go well beyond traditional working hours. Any entrepreneur will tell you, be ready to work overtime until it is normal time week in and week out. This tends to be a large part of the struggle for professionals that have come from traditional work structures into the start-up space. Nights, evenings, and weekends are no longer blocked off. However, they serve as incredible times to get things done. In retrospect, as you build a business, these are the times you cherish, “I have learned to love the journey, not the destination. Even the bumps in the road are challenges that can teach you,” advised Dr. Bajaj.

We are fortunate to be a part of a generation where we see some of the most well-rounded people ever. The key characteristic that they all have in common is the versatility to not only specialize in different areas but also take calculated risks as they pursue new technologies and ventures. If you dare to think outside of the box, your expertise can carry you to places that you would have never imagined, and the best part? You are still, and always will be, the subject matter expert.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to avoid ‘rainbow-washing’ and include allyship and innovation in your Pride marketing efforts instead

Parade-goers make their way down 5th Avenue during the NYC Pride March
Parade-goers make their way down 5th Avenue during the NYC Pride March.

  • Companies often turn to rainbow versions of their products during the month of June for Pride.
  • Rainbow-washing can be lazy, and there are better ways to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Create awareness, give context, partner with community leaders, and do something outside of June.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I get pitched a lot by publicists, agents, and agencies for this column. Because I often use the behavior of certain people or companies as a jump-off point for articles, it makes sense that PR professionals would seek out similar coverage for their clients.

Publicists and account reps have many different resources for building their network, and an increasingly popular approach is to join and participate in online communities such as PR-focused Facebook groups. I’m in a few of these myself to stay informed, and the other day I saw a passing post that mentioned some new LGBTQ-related research. I’m always interested in seeing and referencing new data-backed studies, so I commented and asked for the press release.

I thought I wrote, “Feel free to send that report my way.” But from the looks of my inbox the past few weeks, perhaps I blacked out and actually said something more along the lines of “Open Sesame!” because the number of pitches I’ve received lately has been bonkers.

Read more: Young sellers making thousands a month on Depop reveal how they got their start

Brand after brand has forwarded me their “revolutionary” new campaign in which they’ve printed a rainbow version of their product and are giving a portion of proceeds to an LGBTQ-focused charity. I’ll certainly never turn my nose up at a company’s charitable giving efforts. But I’m also worried. For many of these companies, a rainbow version of their product for the month of June feels both performative and – dare I say it – lazy.

We know that we exist. So we want to see more than awareness in your pride marketing; we want to see allyship and innovation. Here are a few ideas on what that could look like – and why companies should care.

Consumer psychology has changed

Consumers increasingly look to where a brand stands on topics of social justice to determine their loyalty. Your customers and clients want to follow your company and buy your product not only for what it does but also for what you stand for.

We all like to purchase from companies that get us. And according to polling data from Gallup, the roar of both the LGBTQ community and economy is only getting louder. Highlights from that data include:

  • 5.6% of Americans identifying as LGBTQ, up from 4.5% in 2017,
  • 9.1% of millennials identifying as LGBTQ, with about half of that population identifying as bisexual, and
  • Nearly 16% of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ, with 72% of that population identifying as bisexual. 1.8% of Gen Z identifies as transgender.

Translation? Queer people exist, and younger people identify as queer in greater numbers. Oppression efforts continue to run rampant, so we need your help.

As of this writing, 17 anti-transgender bills have already been signed into law this year, per a press release from the Human Rights Campaign. The impact these bills will have on trans youth is staggering; a University of Arizona study found that trans youth experience far higher suicide attempt rates, but an affirmation of their identity and pronouns by parents can greatly reduce this number.

Financial data on the LGBTQ community also paints a complex picture. Mainstream stereotypes depict queer people as lavish and fabulous. But overall, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience socioeconomic inequality, according to a demographics report from UCLA.

As you create awareness for the LGBTQ community during pride month, take time in your messaging to give context. Share with your audience about the current challenges we face as well as where your company stands.

How to attract loyal customers who promote you on their behalf

If pride marketing feels like walking on eggshells this year, here are a few steps you can take that are largely guaranteed to make a difference.

  • Hand the microphone over. Instead of rainbow-washing a community’s needs, partner with a community leader who can speak to important issues in an informed, compelling way. Influencer marketing is still a slippery slope, but spokespeople have been a tried-and-true visibility tactic for decades. The approach is win/win.
  • Do something outside of June. If you’ve missed the opportunity to promote pride in June … there are LGBTQ-related awareness days throughout the year. Your campaign is less likely to get caught in the rainbow-washed echo chamber that is June, too.
  • Go local. GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide includes a directory of community organizations to spotlight and be aware of. What are your local organizations, and how can you encourage supporting them? These grassroots initiatives often make an immediate impact and can literally save lives.

The LGBTQ economy continues to grow, and as a result, the pride marketing landscape is changing. Instead of phoning it in, use marketing dollars to spotlight issues that truly matter to your customers. Challenge yourself to zig when others zag, and you’re more likely to command our market’s attention for months and years to come.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I’m the founder of a zero-waste toothpaste company that was featured on Shark Tank. Here’s what my day is like managing a team of 9 remote employees.

Bite founder and CEO Lindsay McCormick.
Bite founder and CEO Lindsay McCormick.

  • Lindsay McCormick is the founder and CEO of Bite, a sustainable toothpaste tablet company.
  • Since a video of her product went viral on Facebook, McCormick says her business has taken off.
  • Here’s what a day in her life looks like working from home and managing nine employees.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

No matter when I go to bed, I try to get up around 7:30 a.m. We have a lot of late nights (hello, startup life) but I feel like waking up around the same time helps me perform my best, even if it means a little less sleep.

Every morning, I scan my texts and emails in bed to make sure there are no emergencies before starting my morning routine. I spend a few minutes in bed cuddling with my rescue pup, Nemo, before I get up to brush my teeth.

My company, Bite, makes toothpaste tablets, so a lot of the time I’ll be trying out a new flavor we’re working on. I keep a notebook by the sink so I can jot down thoughts and changes I’d like to make while I brush.

I try to meditate for about 30 minutes and spend another 30 minutes either reading and drinking tea or going on a run and listening to an audiobook before digging into emails at 9 a.m.

My boyfriend Asher and I run the company out of our apartment in Marina del Rey, California, where we converted two of the bedrooms into office spaces and one room into a content studio.

Since we’re right on the ocean, I love being able to go for a walk on the beach when I take calls or need to clear my head.

Once the team logs in around 10 a.m., we’re fully locked in and it’s nonstop work until 7 p.m..

We have a small team of just nine employees, so there’s a lot to get done every single day.

Asher and I touch base around 8 p.m. to recap our work day and tackle whatever tasks we need to work on together. Around 9:30 p.m., I usually go on a run (I love running on the beach at night) or I’ll read or watch TV until going to bed around 11pm.

We have a tableting machine in the middle of our office, and I still use it to test out our seasonal flavors and new products. Our tablets are now made in an outside facility here in Los Angeles, but I created our toothpaste and mouthwash formulas (with the sign-off from some dentists and chemists that we work with) and still do our development in-house, so at any time there are various scents and oils wafting around the apartment.

I started Bite in 2017 in order to create a sustainable toothpaste product.

Bite toothpaste products.
Bite toothpaste products.

After learning about the harsh chemicals that are in a lot of commercial toothpaste and the millions of toothpaste tubes that end up in our landfills and oceans every year, I wanted to make a difference. I’ve always been passionate about conservation and the environment, so I started taking online chemistry classes and reaching out to every dentist and dental hygienist I knew to get their advice.

The idea was that the toothpaste tablets would come in a glass jar that could be kept and refilled – that way there would be no plastic toothpaste tubes and none of the harsh preservatives needed to keep bacteria growing in the wet paste.

While working full-time as a TV producer, I started making the toothpaste tablets on a hand-press tableting machine at night.

I labeled and filled the glass bottles in our living room, then I’d pack up every order and drop them off on my way to work in the morning.

That all changed overnight in 2018 when a video about our product went viral on Facebook, and our sales skyrocketed.

Both my boyfriend and I left our jobs to work on Bite full time. We launched new products like a bamboo toothbrush and mouthwash tablets, and quickly grew to an 8-figure business.

We’re bootstrapped, so instead of raising money through traditional investors, our business is powered by our customers and their support. I spend 30 minutes to an hour each day connecting with our community, often on social media through comments or DMs, and sometimes on the phone.

Being on Shark Tank in February 2020 was a wild experience.

The morning of our shoot, we had an issue pop up with our manufacturer and were literally on the phone up until it was time for us to walk on the stage – running a business never stops! We had spent a ton of time preparing beforehand but even still, I was floored by how well it went. I was so nervous, you can see my hands shaking during our pitch, but the Sharks were extremely kind and receptive to our business and growth which was amazing.

We received two offers, one from Mark Cuban and one from Kevin O’Leary, but we didn’t end up taking either. I think anyone who has their own business should run through the thought process of what they would say if they went on Shark Tank; it’s a great way to practice your elevator pitch and showcase your business strategy from the inside out.

We were fortunate to not feel the brunt of the pandemic as our team has always been small and operating from home.

Lindsay McCormick in the early days of developing Bite toothpaste. Early days   In Lab (1)
McCormick in the early days of developing Bite toothpaste.

We’re also made in the US, right up the street from “HQ” (our living room) so our supply chain wasn’t impacted. And because so many people were buying online and thinking about their health and the planet, we were exposed to new customers and were able to grow.

We also started new projects to keep our spirits up with the team, including making hand sanitizer to donate to organizations here in Los Angeles on Skidrow. We channeled our formulation background into tracking down the supplies and began manufacturing in-house, strictly to donate. It really helped us bond as a team and to focus outside of ourselves when the world felt upended. It’s been a wild ride, but every challenge has helped us grow and improve.

My advice for fellow entrepreneurs is to get used to the feeling of being on unsteady ground.

It never goes away, so you might as well embrace it from the start. What I’ve learned about business so far is to be successful, you need to look for the opportunities that others don’t see and that usually means you’re one of the only ones on that path. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable and know we’re all figuring it out as we go along.

Lindsay McCormick is the founder and CEO of Bite, the all-natural, zero-waste, and cruelty-free toothpaste tablets and accessories on a mission to become the world’s most sustainable personal care company.

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Millennial entrepreneur Brandon Blackwood shares how $7,000 and Instagram helped him build a handbag empire that’s on track to book $30 million in revenue

Brandon Blackwood
Brandon Blackwood

  • Brandon Blackwood is a handbag designer who is on track to book $30 million in revenue this year.
  • His eponymous business is best known for its “end systemic racism” tote that went viral last summer.
  • He found success by cultivating connections with customers and sharing his political views on Instagram.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fashion designer Brandon Blackwood was at a crossroads last summer: Along with other Black-owned brands, he saw an increase in support as Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation. He was inspired but didn’t want to create just another handbag for his collection.

“It felt fake and dangerous to do at such an important time,” Blackwood said.

In early July, he conceptualized a small tote bag printed with the words “end systemic racism” and planned to donate a portion of proceeds to the pro bono legal assistance program Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Almost two weeks later, Blackwood launched his collection of 500 “ESR” bags, made in 37 different colors and materials.

It sold out in two hours. “That’s when I knew the bag was more powerful and necessary than even I expected,” Blackwood told Insider.

Blackwood built his eponymous fashion label in six years and is now selling in the prestigious retailers that once rejected his designs. He found success by cultivating connections with customers and sharing his political views on Instagram.

Brandon Blackwood, which sells in bags ranging from $70 to $8,500, booked $3 million in revenue last year. Today, the brand already netted $6.5 million in revenue and estimates it will hit $30 million by the end of the year, according to documents viewed by Insider.

Blackwood shared how he built a brand with strong messaging that’s been sported by celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Normani, and Joan Collins.

Building a Black-owned brand from the ground up

Blackwood was born and raised in Brooklyn, and when it came time for college, his parents believed he was pursuing a degree in neuroscience at Bard College in upstate New York.

Brandon Blackwood
Brandon Blackwood

Growing up in a “strict Jamaican household,” he had two options: become a doctor or lawyer. “It was ingrained in me that no other job exists and nothing else will make you successful,” said Blackwood, now 29.

But he secretly pursued fashion instead, interning at Bergdorf Goodman and Elle Magazine, in addition to working with a manufacturer to make custom handbags for himself.

On graduation day, the announcer read the title of his thesis as he walked across the stage. His parents were expecting to hear something neuroscience-related and not his actual thesis title, “Diane von Furstenberg: Feel Like A Woman, Wear a Dress.”

“My whole family was caught off guard,” Blackwood recalled. “But I was like well, I can’t turn back now.”

After college, in 2013, Blackwood returned to Brooklyn and worked as a buyer at a consignment shop for about $10 an hour. During that time, strangers often compliment the backpack he designed and wore, asking where they could buy it.

“That’s where it clicked,” said Blackwood, who then aspired to create a brand people would feel proud to wear. “I should start taking this more seriously.”

He trademarked his name and began saving money – often opting to walk instead of paying subway fare. “It was either pay for my samples or a train ticket to work, ” he said.

Blackwood saved $7,000 and officially launched his brand in 2015 with four bags named after his close friends and brother. But he couldn’t get into stores because his name wasn’t big enough and e-commerce sales were slow because nobody knew who he was.

“No one was really seeking Black-owned brands,” he said. “It was about top-selling brands, which was disheartening to see.”

Zacharina Dainkeh
Zacharina Dainkeh

Using Instagram to connect with fans and reach cult-status

To build a relationship with customers, he used Instagram to boost his voice and identity. Blackwood often shared candid photos of himself with his bags, his diverse consumer base, and used the platform to voice his political opinions.

In the comments, he also would ask shoppers what colors and materials they’d want to see on his next bags. Business was steady, until 2020 when he released the “end systemic racism” tote.

After selling out his initial 500 bags, Blackwood restocked and sought celebrities who would promote it on social media. Most were reluctant to do so, he said.

Then, in August, he took a chance and cold messaged Kardashian on Instagram, asking her to share a photo with her 224 million followers. She obliged, and in late October, shared a picture that received more than 2 million likes.

“When she did that everyone began circling back around,” Blackwood said. Since then, other bag styles have gone viral, such as its mini trunk bag seen styled on Jessica Alba. He’s also begun working with a diverse set of celebrities to promote his work, including singer Doja Cat, model Winnie Harlow, and tech heiress Jaime Xie.

Most of his consumers are millennials and Gen Zers, who support brands that appear authentic and share their socio-political and ethical views. Fashion blogger Zacharina Dainkeh, 23, bought the “ESR” tote last summer, telling Insider the message resonated with how she was feeling at the time.

“I always support businesses that are important to me,” she said, adding that Black designers are undervalued. “We are not trends – we are everlasting and here to stay.”

Predencia Solange, 28, an account executive based in Brooklyn also bought the “ESR” tote in an effort to support more Black designers. She said systemic racism has played part in her life as a woman and color, and being more sociopolitically conscious as a Black woman also meant being also being more conscious as a buyer, she told Insider.

“I wear the bag in style, mood and politics,” she said.

A future without the End Systemic Racism tote

This March, Blackwood discontinued the tote. He didn’t want the bag to become a trend that distracts from its initial purpose to give back.

Brandon Blackwood
Brandon Blackwood

But he’s already made a name for himself that extends beyond the viral hit.

The brand just released its spring selection of bags, and some styles have already sold out. He’s now joined other Black fashion entrepreneurs such as Telfar Clemens, Christopher John Rogers, and Kirby Jean-Raymond, who are seeking to redefine the luxury sector.

Luxury within the Black community is about comfort and taste, rather than price point, said Blackwood and fashion historian Darnell-Jamal Lisby. For the new rising crop of Black luxury entrepreneurs, it’s also about being accessible and making sure Black people can be included in the conversation of luxury that has long excluded them.

This is one reason why Blackwood’s company insists on letting customers pre-order items to ensure everyone gets a bag, similar to Telfar’s Bag Security Program, which Insider hailed the “New White Glove Treatment.”

Today, Blackwood’s bags are sold in some of the very stores that once turned him down. He hopes to expand into shoes, outerwear, and sunglasses to become a household name.

“People think I’m this new person who came from nowhere but that’s not the case – there are five years of history behind this,” he said. “This is one of the few times where I can finally take a step back and breathe.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 reasons why prioritizing yourself is the key to a healthy work-life balance

woman upward dog yoga
Pay attention to your stress levels and take a break when you need it.

  • Self-prioritization in goal setting, work, and productivity is key to achieving work-life balance.
  • You must schedule time to work on hobbies, do fun things, and rest in order to avoid burnout.
  • Don’t tie your identity to your job, and remember you’ll be the most productive when you’re content.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

You’ve received the standard advice about setting boundaries with the hours you work if you’re now (or have always) worked from home. You’ve read that you should focus on tasks more intentionally by using software that blocks social media and email notifications. You may have even experienced work-life balance for a while.

However, what’s missing from the conversation about work-life balance is the need for self-prioritization in goal setting, work, productivity and the desire to optimize one’s life. Here are three reasons why making yourself a priority is the key and foundation to achieving work-life balance.

Read more: I went through a divorce and months of unhappiness in my role before I hit my breaking point. Here’s how I put my life back together.

1. Burnout stems from a lack of excitement for what you’re pursuing

Do you wake up, look at your to-do list, and verbally cringe? Chances are, most of what you do each day is the same, and the routine is draining you mentally, and by extension, physically.

When you spend day in and day out grinding with no time allotted for fun and all the personal goals you’d like to accomplish – it leads to frustration, bitterness, and burnout. You aren’t excited to work, which diminishes your energy and motivation. The resulting burnout decreases productivity and amplifies excuses.

Work-life balance has to be about balance. But more than figuring out a schedule that works for you, you’ll need to incorporate plenty of “you time.” Your schedule should include moments when you work on hobbies, do fun things, and focus on personal optimization.

If you’re feeling stressed and mentally exhausted when you think about work and your goals, it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself when was the last time you did something just for you? You’ll be more productive and develop the ability to work more intentionally when your life doesn’t feel like a burden.

2. The ‘work’ part of work-life balance can’t overtake your identity

When you’re good at what you do, it can be easy to let that become part of your identity. It’s not uncommon for someone who’s been the “boss” at a job or business to have readjustment challenges to changes in their work situation – millions of Americans experienced just that over the past year.

If you tie your identity to your work, you’ll lose balance when life circumstances become unpredictable. Work-life balance starts with you being secure in your non-work priorities and unattachment to circumstances you can’t control.

There are so many experiences of life and moments to be lived beyond work. Work helps you build the financial freedom to experience life, but don’t let it overtake the balance and tie your beliefs about yourself to circumstances that don’t have to define you.

3. You’ll get more done when you work from a place of being complete

Whether you realize it or not, you are the most significant project you’ll ever pursue. When you make your optimization a priority, you’ll be more productive. When you’re excited about life and the opportunity to work, you’ll reduce stress and burnout.

Start with making yourself the priority. Family, friends, coworkers, clients, and anyone else that demands your time and energy should see and respect your boundaries.

Spend time each day with one task, goal or fun experience that’s just for you. If you can do that at the start of your day, you’ll train your mind to understand that you’re the main priority. Do this over time, and you’ll wake up excited for what the day will hold.

As you build the self-prioritization muscle and develop healthy self-care habits, you’ll achieve a work-life balance more sustainably.

Read the original article on Business Insider

4 reasons why reading fiction can help you write better business books

reading
Reading great fiction teaches you how to add emotionally powerful narratives to business books.

  • Skilled writers can use a fiction writing style to make their business books more entertaining.
  • Writing business books as narrative nonfiction engages with the reader’s five senses.
  • Accelerate the narrative pace, like thriller fiction. Business books do not need to be slow and dry.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Humans seem hardwired to consume and enjoy stories. Fictional stories shape the way we think, affect how we act and influence our choices.

One study revealed that “good storytelling” increased cooperation within a Filipino hunter-gatherer population. And Alexander the Great slept with a copy of Homer’s Iliad next to him every night, a fictional story he used as a blueprint for his conquests. That story drove his choices and changed history.

The average adult spends about 6% of his or her time every day engrossed in fictional stories. Evolutionary theorists have attempted to understand why humans are so eager to consume fiction. But a nonfiction writer doesn’t need to know “why,” only “that.”

By leveraging this human proclivity for powerful stories, nonfiction writers can vastly improve the quality of the books they’re writing.

Narrative nonfiction and emotionally powerful prose

Narrative nonfiction, also known as creative nonfiction, is a style of nonfiction writing that uses an approach similar to fiction writing. For example, the nonfiction book might follow the story arc very precisely and have a clearly defined beginning, middle, climax, and end.

The primary purpose of fiction is to entertain. There are many advanced skills writers can use to up the entertainment value of their business books. These skills include emotionally powerful prose, changes in rhythm, smooth shifts in pacing, and vivid descriptions.

The way to learn all these advanced methods is to read a lot of fiction.

I’m a big fan of narrative nonfiction. Whenever someone wants a book written, I try and persuade him or her to use this method of writing if possible. My purpose when working with writers is to ensure the book they are writing will be read from beginning to end. Making the book entertaining is key.

Leverage the five senses

Description using the five senses is an excellent way to suck your reader into your story. The more engrossed your reader is, the deeper the emotional impact of your narrative.

This applies to business books, memoirs, general nonfiction, self-help, and many other nonfiction subgenres.

Too much description, however, can make a book boring. The way to learn what is “too much” or “too little” is to read a lot of popular fiction. The best fiction books use the senses of taste, smell, and touch to bring the readers into the story and so involve them emotionally.

Brand perception has a lot to do with emotional responses, so this is a vital skill to learn when writing nonfiction.

Pick up the pace and capture the interest

Whether you’re telling an anecdote or writing about your life’s story, modifying the pacing of the story goes a long way towards evoking powerful emotions in people.

Thrillers are particularly good at this, especially near the end of the story. Two writers who do this expertly are Harlan Coben and Lee Child.

By shortening sentences and paragraphs, you immediately accelerate the narrative pace. The same is achieved by shifting quickly from scene to scene.

If you were writing a sales book, you could make readers inch forward in their seats and grip their books (or e-readers) a little tighter by writing a fast-paced anecdote of a million-dollar deal. You could jump back and forth between the manager, the salesperson and maybe even the spouse waiting outside their child’s school, eagerly awaiting a call to know if the deal went through – or if they just lost the house!

Not only will the chapter be exciting, but it will also be memorable.

Anything can be turned into a story if you know how

Once, I worked with an author who had very little to write about other than a short system.

So, we hacked away and worked out how to fill the book with narratives and emotional beats from beginning to end. What began as a lukewarm book quickly became a riveting read.

It does take a bit of smart thinking to figure out how to add emotionally powerful narratives to a book. Reading a lot of good fiction teaches you how to do it and pays off when your business book flies off the shelves.

Read the original article on Business Insider