Meet the cofounders of Pizzaslime, who created Gen Z’s go-to for meme fashion and recently launched a record label with Diplo

Nick “Stove” Santiago and Matthew Hwang, founders of Pizzaslime.

  • Streetwear brand and creative agency Pizzaslime has made a name for itself among Gen Z with meme fashion.
  • Now, it’s expanding. Pizzaslime recently launched a record label and is working on a TV show.
  • The founders spoke to Insider about how the internet sits at the center of everything they do.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Wearing the Bernie Sanders inauguration meme, sleeping on a pillow emblazoned with the Musk tweet “Bitcoin is my safe word,” and donning an “Oprah 2020” hoodie are all possible because of Pizzaslime.

Even the website for the streetwear brand and creative agency, where you’ll see much of the merch mentioned above is sold out, is a play on the gossip website TMZ, filled with satirical articles and ads.

“Sometimes we’re not even sure if it’s going to connect with people all the time,” said Nick “Stove” Santiago, one of the brand’s millennial cofounders. “We’re trying and having a good time with it. And it works.”

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A Pizzaslime Tweet pillow.

Work it does. Pizzaslime has gained traction among Gen Z and DJs alike, appearing on influencers Emma Chamberlain and Addison Rae and on Diplo and Skrillex. While Pizzaslime found cult fandom in its early days, cofounder Matthew Hwang said it exploded during the pandemic thanks to the rise of TikTok, where Pizzaslime has 1 million followers.

The merchandise line, founded in 2013, has acted as both a sly observer and ironic commenter on political, economic, and cultural moments that have gone viral. By offering an implicit critique on media consumption and internet and celebrity obsession, the merch itself tends to go viral.

In 2020 alone, the clothing side of Pizzaslime raked in $2 million in sales, peaking in April, according to screen shots verified by Insider (they declined to share total business revenue overall). That’s a lot of stonk for a brand with only two employees: the 33-year-old Stove and 34-year-old Hwang.

The pandemic has only thrown up more memes for Pizzaslime fodder. “When all the WallStreetBets stuff was happening, it was energetic,” Stove said. “Me and Matt were waking up at six in the morning to text each other about stocks. Like we were in it, you know, it’s real and authentic to us. And that was the [thing] we thought would be funny to make.”

Pizzaslime is known for turning memes into fashion.

The result: a typically Pizzaslimish graphic tee featuring a mashup of things easily identifiable by the young and internet-savvy: the logos of Reddit, WallStreetBets, and Gamestop; a fat pile of money; a stock board; and Elon Musk’s famous tweet, “Gamestonk!!”

Pizzaslime’s success has propelled them to new ventures: the launch of a record label with Diplo last spring, their New York Fashion Week debut in February, and an expansion into film television. At the center of it all is the internet.

The art of meme fashion

Stove and Hwang met as coworkers, doing marketing and creative direction at a music management company, but not all their merch ideas fit the artists they were working with. So they decided to make T-shirts for themselves, wearing them backstage at concerts or events, and the entertainment crowd gravitated toward their designs.

As they tell it, the Kardashians were wearing Pizzaslime’s Gucci-Versace-Louis Vuitton mash-up at a Kanye West concert. “Kris Jenner just turns around, and is like, ‘I love that shirt,'” Hwang said. “So I was like, ‘Oh, OK. Let us contact you.'”

These organic moments of “being in the right place at the right time,” as Santiago describes it, put Pizzaslime on track to being the internet-savvy brand it is today. They count the Gucci-Versace shirt as their first big streetwear hit. Since then, their merch has flown off the site, from their Crocs collab that repurposed the shoes into crossbody bags for $300 to their “Stop looking at my” line, famously worn by Billie Eilish.

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Pizzaslime’s Crocs collab.

Pizzaslime has tapped into the emerging trend of meme fashion before the powerhouses caught on, with major players from Balenciaga to Maison Margiela now in the space, Morgane Le Caer, content lead at global fashion shopping platform Lyst, told Insider.

“Virality has become one of the key factors in determining the success of fashion products,” she said. “What matters to younger consumers is what captures their attention and has the ability to spread like wildfire across social networks – and this is exactly why meme fashion is so popular.”

Read more: The CEO of the BUZZ ETF backed by Dave Portnoy breaks down the 3 strategies his social media-driven index is using to capitalize on the GameStop revolution

Santiago was hesitant to use a buzzword like “authenticity” but acknowledged he couldn’t find a better term. “There’s a real rawness and authenticity to what we do,” he said. “We aren’t afraid to make a statement or post something and lose 1,000 followers.” He added that this caught on with Gen Z because it relates to authenticity more than his own generation, which he finds a bit more susceptible to marketing.

“It’s hard to define what Pizzaslime is,” he said. “For some people, it’s sort of like a barrier of entry they find confusing. At the same time, it’s given us the ability to build all these verticals and do everything and try everything.”

But that’s not to say Pizzaslime lacks strategy. “We’re not just sort of like throwing darts to the wall,” Santiago said. “The strategy really comes in with like, OK, now, how do we present the idea? How do we get this out there?”

The power of being undefined

Pizzaslime’s greatest strength is its lack of definition.

The verticalization allows them to move in all sorts of spaces differently. The work, Santiago said, is figuring out how all of these verticals intertwine to fit into the Pizzaslime ecosystem.

“We don’t have to think like a traditional clothing brand because we also act as an agency and we’re developing TV shows,” he said. “It’s just all feeding each other and having a division for that, so what we’re really doing is building our Willy Wonka factory.”

While the internet informs and inspires its creative decisions, it also helps them figure out what sort of strategies and mechanisms they want to try with clients like Crocs or Paramount Pictures for their marketing arm. Santiago likened it to a proof of concept – trying things with their own brand, only to apply those discoveries to the agency side.

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Pizzaslime made their New York Fashion Week debut in February in the form of an animated virtual presentation.

Building out these verticals has put Hwang and Santiago at full speed. When asked for some of Pizzaslime’s key turning points over the years, they took pause.

“We’re going like a billion miles per hour because we’re doing so many different things at the same time,” Santiago said. “These are interesting reflection points where like, ‘Oh, right now I feel like I’m slowing down and processing this.’ It’s hard to pinpoint those moments because I’m always onto the next thing right away.'”

That they are. They’re currently working on a TV project that Santiago described as an “internetty” version of “American Idol,” all while collaborating with Amazon on a new animated TV series called “Fairfax.” And the first song of their record label, they said, just crossed 75 million streams on Spotify.

They plan to start plugging more into the label, looking at how they can tie music to products and build trends through products and sounds on social media, such as incorporate music from their record label into their TV show or collaborating with artists to put merch on Instagram. “If we’re working with a client and they want to make a TikTok campaign, we have the record label and the ability to make that TikTok song also a real song released through our record label,” Santiago said.

While they’ve been approached by venture capitalists, they said they’re taking the time to find the right strategic partners that would help scale up Pizzaslime.

“We want to jump into spaces and places that don’t have strong internet voices or tones like we do,” Santiago said, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if you can find Pizzaslime skincare at some point. “We want to do some pretty unexpected stuff.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Hustle culture is overrated

9 to 5 Fox
The film “9 to 5,” a classic hit, spawned the Dolly Parton single of the same name.

  • People on Twitter have been debating what’s better: a nine-to-five or entrepreneurship.
  • Insider spoke with nine-to-fivers, entrepreneurs, and work coaches to gather insight into the topic.
  • Two experts said work burnout is on the rise, and that the future of work will change post-pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On March 29, Tino Masaya posted a tweet that sparked a debate on Twitter.

“A 9-to-5 job is not slavery. Leave us alone. Not everybody wants or can be an entrepreneur,” the 30-year-old UK native tweeted.

Masaya, who works for her local city council, told Insider that she tweeted her statement because she was tired of the narrative, especially peddled on social media, that everyone has to be an entrepreneurial “hustler” with multiple streams of income.

It got over 11,000 likes, nearly 2,500 retweets, and over 200 comments. “Somebody had to say it,” one person replied. “Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone.”

“When entrepreneurs say this, it tells me a lot about how they treat their own employees,” another commented.

Weeks later, the conversation was sparked again by an April 17 video in which a group of people debated which was better: a more traditional job or the path of entrepreneurship. “Your nine-to-five cannot sustain you,” one person said in the clip.

But Masaya said her nine-to-five does sustain her. She’s fine with having a boss and waking up at 8 a.m.

So is Simone Noble, who ran her own consulting company for about a year before moving to it part time. She loved the freedom it gave her, allowing her to set her own schedule and spend more time with her family.

But she didn’t like having to chase down money from her clients to pay the bills. Relying on this income, she was plagued by anxiety: Would she be able to pay for food, for her car, for her home? Eventually, she decided it was too much.

“Having to run around looking for ways to make money – that’s not for me,” she said. Noble went back into the full-time flow of a nine-to-five, where she has a boss and a more reliable income. Her business partner still runs the consultancy full time.

Entrepreneurship is glamorized on social media, where a crop of self-made creators document their lifestyles and career successes in real time. To the outsider, they appear to make quick money from their endeavors, but social media paints an overly rosy portrait of the true entrepreneurial experience, which is often gritty and unrewarding. Almost half of entrepreneurs reported struggling with mental health – and the true number is likely much higher.

Current and former entrepreneurs, as well as work coaches, told Insider that social media places undue pressure on people to become self-made by pursuing their passion. They agreed that a nine-to-five can provide a stable career path and also be rewarding, despite the online narrative. They added that the pandemic is redefining traditional work to be more flexible for employees, thanks to a widespread desire for a more entrepreneurial life and changes in work life.

Social media glamorizes what the life of an entrepreneur is like

There are some days Robreuana Ruiz wishes she worked a nine-to-five.

Ruiz, an entrepreneur in Atlanta, makes six figures a year from her cosmetic companies Fash N’ Lash and Curl Candi, which she started at the age of 24. But these days, she’s dealing with what she calls “entrepreneurial depression” from trying to keep up with supply and demand, and from the pressures of running her own company. “It’s an emotional roller coaster,” Ruiz said.

“Social media can make everyone feel like they have to be this boss entrepreneur, but businesses are not for everybody,” she said.

Ruiz is referring to messaging from groups such as “LLC Twitter” or “Roc Nation Brunch Twitter,” where a flood of followers – many of whom were inspired by the success of the mogul Jay Z – encourages others to chase an entrepreneurial life and invest any gains for the chance to seek higher returns. But it takes courage and patience to launch a business, Ruiz said – not to mention capital.

“Social media can make everyone feel like they have to be this boss entrepreneur, but businesses are not for everybody,” she said.

As her own employer, Ruiz has no fixed schedule, and making payroll is solely dependent upon customers, rather than a corporate enterprise. This means there are good months, but there are also months where she’s left worrying.

Entrepreneurial depression is “real, and it’s not talked about enough,” Ruiz said.

Despite this, she has been earning six figures. But social media makes that success feel inadequate. “It makes us feel like we aren’t doing enough,” Ruiz said. “I’ve been an entrepreneur for three years, and I haven’t made a million dollars yet.”

There are benefits to having a 9-to-5

Michael Greenberg, a serial entrepreneur in Denver, said social media has made it easier than ever to make money by equating an online persona with a moneymaking business.

“There’s a media machine built around the idea that you have to be hyperproductive to succeed, and that if you’re not hyperproductive, you’re somehow falling behind,” Greenberg said. “We are productivity-obsessed in the worst possible way.”

“We are productivity-obsessed in the worst possible way.”

Greenberg has never worked a traditional nine-to-five, but he’s now on the hunt for a more stable gig as he continues to run his side hustles. Specifically, he wants his baseline income to be handled by a job that takes “between 25 to 40 hours a week.”

In his own Twitter thread, Greenberg called entrepreneurship lonely and hard. He loved being able to work everywhere, but didn’t like not having a team of peers. He loved having control over the budget and hiring, but not that he had to often pay for mentorship opportunities. “Don’t let the entrepreneurship, startup, hustle porn fool you,” Greenberg tweeted. “The only right choice is the one you choose to make.”

After all, working a nine-to-five has its perks and practicalities. Masaya, the UK native who tweeted about the pressure of entrepreneurship, said paid sick leave and maternity leave were two major benefits to working a traditional job. Noble, who gave up her own consulting business for a nine-to-five, liked knowing that there would be money for the bills each month.

In the United States, healthcare benefits – as well as dental, vision, and retirement – are tied to employment. In 2011, the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that there were over 20 million self-employed people in the US, 30% of whom lacked health insurance. And a study published in November of last year, by Agnieszka Kwapisz of Montana State University, found self-employed men were 62% less likely to be insured, and self-employed women 83% less likely, compared to the general public.

Heaven Williams
Heaven Williams and her candles.

Paid sick leave and disability benefits are also tied to employment. Even to qualify for unemployment benefits – as over 50 million Americans did during the height of the pandemic last year – one must prove they had been employed recently.

Up until the pandemic, the self-employed didn’t count.

“There are certain companies out there that do care about their employees and have amazing benefits,” said Heaven Williams, who works for a Sacramento homeless shelter during the day and runs a candle business on the side. “If you find something that you love to do and it’s a nine-to-five, there is nothing wrong with it.”

The structure of day jobs can learn a thing or two from entrepreneurship

One main part of entrepreneurship that most people like is flexibility and having agency over their time. Over 40% of those surveyed in 2017 for a report done by the accounting organization FreshBooks said becoming self-employed had given them better working hours, improved the quality of their childcare, and allowed them to spend more time with their families.

This is a trend that is looking more likely to be adopted into the traditional working environment, especially in a post-pandemic world. Insider’s reporting on the future of work has suggested the nine-to-five may not be the same after the crisis passes. Ashley Whillans, a professor at Harvard Business School, believed the traditional workweek could become more flexible, where workers come to the office three days a week, spend two days at home, and have two days off.

Microsoft is now allowing employees to work from home for less than 50% of their workweek. Both Twitter and Spotify are allowing employees to work from anywhere.

What’s more, Greenberg believed most people don’t even want to be entrepreneurs – they just hate the jobs they’re in. Matching workers with jobs they like could see an increase in employee satisfaction.

Joe Sanok, a podcast host and the author of the professional help book “Thursday Is the New Friday,” said he was a supporter of the four-day workweek, and that the concept of “summer Fridays” – the practice of giving employees part or full time off to enjoy the warmer months – should be more prevalent in modern workplaces.

Meanwhile, Paula Davis, a burnout consultant, said workplaces will be able to attract more people by offering more flexibility, such as the option for remote work and giving employees more free time.

“I also think a sense of meaning, impact, and purpose is something companies are really going to have to step their game up,” said Davis, who experienced burnout both as an entrepreneur and as a commercial lawyer. “You’re going to have to explain to people how this is changing the greater good.”

Even if the workweek is redefined and social media gets the story straight on entrepreneurship, society is still playing a dangerous game with productivity as more people seek to monetize their time and personas.

Burnout is at an all-time high, along with the number of side hustles. said she knew of many people who had started to work traditional jobs alongside side hustles, seeking to juggle both on their quests for uncertain success.

“That’s not productivity,” she said. “More, exhaustion.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia on how her Indian American heritage inspired her to create a $1 billion business

Bollywood Dance Group
Payal Kadakia launched ClassPass as a service to search for fitness options, but it has expanded into much more.

  • Payal Kadakia is an entrepreneur and founder of ClassPass, an app and subscription service for fitness classes.
  • Growing up she says she thought she had to separate and hide her dual identities – American and Indian.
  • She was inspired to create a space to celebrate both of her cultures, and it became a billion-dollar business.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Payal Kadakia launched ClassPass in 2013 as a service to search for fitness options. Today, it’s an international membership booking platform for classes and services, from Pilates to haircuts to, recently, Covid-19 vaccinations – and is valued at $1 billion. Prior to founding her company, Kadakia was a Bain & Company analyst with a passion for Indian folk dance, which she began practicing at age 3. Her parents immigrated in the late 1970s from Gujarat, India, raising her in a rich culture – though she felt ostracized from her broader community at times. The duality she cultivated and later broke away from shaped her entrepreneurial journey.

– As told to Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

I grew up in Randolph, New Jersey, where I was one of the only Indian girls. We were one of the only Indian families. People didn’t understand who I was, or where I came from. I definitely got made fun of. People didn’t want to be around the person who was different. When you’re a kid, that makes a very big impression on you.

I had been bullied for so long I tried to hide my cultural heritage.

For example, I was a cheerleader. And I would have Friday night football games. There was a huge Indian festival called Navratri, which is my favorite festival of the year. The whole next town nearby would get together. And we would dance until two or three in the morning. I literally rushed from the football game and changed in my car into full-on Indian garb to go to the festival. This was the duality I lived with.

In a town down the road, there was another Indian community. There, I started doing Indian folk dance, and I found a group of people who were like me. I found a place in this community where I could connect with people because they looked like me and understood me. My cultural heritage had been so positive at home. Seeing how my mom and dad lived their lives, being in a country where they didn’t always understand everything, had been inspirational. My mom never took the idea that she couldn’t do something just because she didn’t understand it. She worked the night shift, and my dad worked during the day, because they couldn’t afford childcare. There was never a dead end.

When I went to college, a beautiful thing happened where I started really feeling OK in both skins.

I began seeing other people who were Indian – who kind of fit in. Dance was a huge part of it for me. It allowed me to care about who I was even more. I stopped feeling like I was different and started owning who I was.

I started a dance company called Sa Dance. I was inspired by watching Alvin Ailey, one of the greatest African-American dance companies in the world. I saw that the messages of your people can be represented through dance. Art is such a beautiful way of sharing messages of culture. Let me show you the beauty of it, the richness of it, how ancient it is, who my ancestors are. I started feeling like I was creating and leading and communicating about my culture. Dance became a vehicle for my coping.

When I started working on ClassPass, simply by building a company in fitness, I was in a roomful of men, most of the time.

Investors didn’t really know what I was talking about. I was just so unique in so many of the rooms I was in. But I’m also 4-foot-11. I’m a very petite Indian woman. I didn’t look like anyone I was ever in a room with. It took me three years to get my product right. When it worked, all of these investors and individuals who I had talked to in the previous three years were all of a sudden saying, “Hey, let me give you money!” And I’m thinking, “Why didn’t you bet on me before?” That’s the conversation that I sometimes have with myself about it: I didn’t fit their mold.

One of the biggest reasons I became an entrepreneur is I felt like I never fit into those environments – even my job in corporate America. Part of it was my cultural background, part was because of my artistic background. I needed to create an environment where I knew I could be like all colors of who I am. We obviously see this problem in the female-male dynamic that’s happening right now where capital is being deployed. But it’s the same thing when it comes to messages of culture.

I remember needing to hide. I remember needing to hide dance, being scared of sharing that part of myself with people. I realized over time that it has made me only stronger in everything I do. But other people need to have that ability to be their whole selves as well. In the press, people who look like me are not always represented. I didn’t see Indian people on the cover of magazines or on billboards. This is America, you know what I mean? We are a part of the population! And I think we’re really proud of who we are, and we’ve accomplished a lot. I want people to know that.

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 reasons entrepreneurs should forego traditional book deals for self-publishing

journal writing
One advantage of self-publishing is that there are no literary gatekeepers to hold your book back.

  • MindStir Media CEO J.J. Hebert says now is the time for entrepreneurs to self-publish their books.
  • With shrinking bookshelf space and more people buying online, using a traditional publisher isn’t as practical.
  • By self-publishing, the author also maintains creative and financial control of their work.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Many entrepreneurs are using newfound time at home to finally write down their unique ideas and stories to be published in book form. The Internet is rife with contradicting information about self-publishing and traditional book publishing, so which path should an entrepreneur – or writer in general – use for book publication?

As the owner and founder of MindStir Media, I’m confident in saying that self-publishing is the proper route in many cases. Here are three main reasons why:

1.You’re guaranteed to get your book published

With traditional publishing, you’ll generally need to find a literary agent to represent you and your work. But finding agent representation can be a long and arduous journey. I know writers who’ve spent upwards of a year or two sending out query letters and still haven’t been able to land an agent. Most traditional publishers will only look at a manuscript if it comes in through an agent, so literary agents are a valuable resource and contact when going the traditional publishing route.

The major problem with this approach is that nothing is guaranteed. You could be one of those people who spend years trying to find an agent, or you could land an agent, only to get rejected by the traditional publishers anyways.

With self-publishing, the ball is in your court. There are no literary gatekeepers holding you back. The consumer will be the final judge of your book.

2. You’ll keep control over your book

Writers don’t always consider the topic of rights when comparing self-publishing and traditional publishing. With a traditional publisher, it’s common for you to relinquish your publishing rights to that company, meaning that you’ll lose control over your publishing rights as well as any creative control. If you get to the point where an agent pitches your book to a publisher and said publisher accepts your manuscript for publication, the publisher will own the rights to your book and will ultimately have final say over the content of your published book.

Self-publishing is the complete opposite in every way. The self-publishing author keeps their publishing rights and all creative control, from the cover design to the editing and book production. In fact, you can research and select your own book designer, professional editor, printer, distributor, and more.

3. You’ll enjoy much higher royalty rates

It’s a bit of a dirty little secret in the publishing industry that traditional book deals only payout about 10% – 15% royalties to authors. Some traditional publishing advocates tend to argue that it’s worth giving up 85% to 90% royalties in exchange for superior support and distribution. But with physical bookshelf space dwindling and most consumers buying books through Amazon and other online retailers, that argument doesn’t hold much water in 2021.

An author can simply self-publish online and reach a large network of online retailers through a distributor such as Ingram. In turn, the self-published author can keep 70% t0 100% royalties. If your book sells 10,000 copies, for example, you could see tens of thousands of dollars in your bank account from those sales through self-publishing, whereas traditional publishing royalties might only reach $10,000 or less from those same 10,000 copies sold.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to spot signs of burnout as an entrepreneur

stress migraine
Stress headaches and constant tiredness are some physical signs of burnout.

  • Many entrepreneurs near a point of burnout eventually, so it’s important to recognize symptoms early.
  • Burnout occurs gradually and can manifest in changes in mood and personality or even physical symptoms like stress headaches.
  • Consistent tiredness, irritability, and reduced passion for work are also signs of oncoming burnout.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Entrepreneurship is challenging. Some days, it’s downright exhausting. For many entrepreneurs, there comes a “last straw” breaking point where the conditions are too stressful or too overwhelming to continue.

But for most others, the eventual loss of passion for entrepreneurship – better known as burnout – is something slower and more gradual. It’s a creeping feeling that grows from day to day and eventually begins to affect your work performance.

You won’t go from happy-go-lucky to ready to quit overnight. One day, you might be a little extra irritable. The next, you might wake up and dread the idea of going to work. Not long after, you might make worse decisions, rushing through projects, or you might seriously contemplate leaving.

It’s not a position any entrepreneur wants to find themselves in. The good news is, it’s mostly preventable.

Why it’s important to stop burnout

There’s nothing wrong with changing jobs, selling your business, or retiring. But burnout itself can be devastating. Not only will it force you to leave your business prematurely, it can also leave you feeling despair and exhaustion. Even more importantly, it can negatively affect you on a physical level; burnout is associated with higher stress, higher susceptibility to illness, and even a higher risk of heart disease.

These effects compound with time, so acknowledging and stopping burnout early can put you in a much more favorable position long-term.

The trouble is, burnout is difficult to catch, especially early on.

How to identify entrepreneurial burnout

We all feel stress. We all get nervous. We all experience anxiety or dread sometimes. So how do you know when this is just part of the job and when it’s an early sign of burnout?

  • You dread going to work consistently. One of the hallmark signs is dreading going to work. Everyone dreads going to work some of the time; there might be an awful client to deal with or negative consequences from a bad decision to manage. But if you dread going to work on a consistent basis, it’s a sign of developing burnout.
  • Your mood and personality have changed (according to others). It’s hard to notice the changes in your own personality since they often unfold gradually and beneath our notice. However, burnout often leads people to experience mood and personality changes. Talk to the people around you; do they notice that you’re more irritable, angrier, or less pleasant than you used to be? Chances are, something external is responsible for this.
  • You’re experiencing physical symptoms. As burnout develops, it tends to be associated with more and more physical symptoms. For example, you might feel more stress headaches. You might have trouble getting to sleep (or getting enough sleep). And you might even be more susceptible to contagious illnesses. Keep an eye out for these developments.
  • You always feel tired. No matter how much sleep you get, burnout will leave you feeling tired. You’ll be physically and mentally exhausted most of the time, even after a good night of sleep or a break away from work. It’s almost impossible to feel full of energy.

Solving the burnout problem

It’s tough to make a one-size-fits-all recommendation for how to get rid of burnout because there are many different types of professionals and many different types of burnout.

For example, your burnout might stem from your own over-investment, in which case, delegating more and reducing your workload could help. You might also be worn out from a specific type of stress, which might require you to change up your daily responsibilities. You might even feel under challenged due to excessive predictability and routine, in which case the solution is finding new ways to be stimulated, like learning a new skill.

In any case, one of the best steps to take to address your burnout is to take some time away. Use up a few vacation days or take an extended hiatus from your work; it’s a great opportunity to de-stress and get away from the burden of work. It’s also a chance to get some perspective. Once you’re away from the office, you’ll have a much keener sense of what’s actually stressing you out (and what you might be able to do about it).

You can also talk to the people around you for advice. They may have a better perspective on your work style than you do. Once you have a better understanding of your current position, you can invest time and energy into making an action plan. How can you change your environment and your approach to work in a way that relieves your stress?

The action plan will look different for everyone. But as long as you’re consistent and proactive, you’ll have a good chance of reversing the effects of entrepreneurial burnout in your career.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to choose the right brand strategy for your early-stage startup, according to an expert

woman working computer wfh coffee shop laptop entrepreneur startup
Having a smart branding strategy is key for an early-stage startup.

  • When it comes to selecting a brand strategy for your startup, there are plenty of options to choose from.
  • Branding expert Zaheer Dodhia says it’s key to pinpoint your audience and company values to uncover your brand identity.
  • If you want a wide audience, consider the flanker strategy; if you’re in a niche market, consider the competitor strategy.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Every startup needs a branding strategy. Your brand strategy gives you an outline and a plan to work through, making sure that your company hits all the goals along the way.

Zaheer Dodhia
Zaheer Dodhia is an entrepreneur and branding expert.

But choosing which strategy will work for your startup depends on the details.

What is a branding strategy?

In the most simple terms, a branding strategy boils down to the plan you make for actions that will grow your business. It includes your brand personality, how you interact with your customers, what you offer to consumers, and brand identity design elements including your logo and print materials.

A good branding strategy utilizes your brand as a cohesive whole so that each aspect of your brand will work with the others, creating growth synergistically.

Obviously, the exact strategy you choose will depend on your company and what has the greatest chance of success. And your strategy may change as your company grows and develops.

Key branding strategies for startups

A branding strategy for an established business will differ greatly from startup strategies.

For example, a business that is already running may choose to branch out in a line extension strategy, creating new products to capture a further audience or to fill a need that their current audience has. That could be a strategy that you choose later down the line.

For a startup, however, it’s a matter of getting the brand launched and building a core before you start branching out too much.

Here are some important startup branding strategies that could potentially work for your own new business:

  1. New brand strategy. This strategy creates a brand around a central product. It enables you to launch with your product at the center of the brand, connecting your brand with that product in the minds of your audience. This strategy also works for companies that are already established but which want to create new products and garner new audiences.
  2. Flanker brand strategy. If you’re looking to gather the widest audience possible, this is a good possibility. To establish this strategy, create product variants that appeal to different consumer groups. For example, you may create a tech product that is higher end, with a stripped-down lower-end variant to appeal to those who may want something more affordable and don’t need all the bells and whistles. The high and low end products can be launched under the same basic brand, but should be differentiated by name or designation, ie. iPhone 8 versus iPhone X.
  3. Attitude branding strategy. For a startup, it’s less about leveraging brand loyalty and more about projecting a personality. Attitude branding pushes attention to marketing a lifestyle, feeling, or emotional connection, rather than just a product or service. Nike is a great example of this; their branding promotes a healthy, athletic lifestyle, which is represented by their individual products.
  4. Competitor brand strategy. At times, a company already enjoys a share in a niche market, but wants to pull above against their competitors. If that’s the case for your startup, you may want to focus on a competitor brand strategy, which means going after an existing audience rather than seeking a new one. Ultimately, the advantage of a competitor brand strategy is that you already know there’s an audience for your product. You just need to determine how you can rise above the existing competition and secure a bigger market share.

How to choose a branding strategy

Before you make a decision on which branding strategy you’re going to adopt, it’s important to identify the core concepts, values, and promises that make your brand unique.

Take the time to pinpoint these details:

  • What is your target audience?
  • What promises does your brand make to this audience?
  • What values is your brand built on, and how do they play into the messaging?
  • How do you tell your brand story?
  • Who in your business is involved in implementing your branding strategy?

The last question, ideally, should be answered with, “Everyone!” Even hourly employees should be aware of the branding strategy and willing to whole-heartedly support it. Remember that customer service is also deeply involved in effective branding – everyone involved in the startup needs to be a team player, and remember how their actions and words reflect on the brand.

Along with these, the visual aspect of your branding, such as your logo, color palette, and website design, should all be taken into consideration.

Ultimately, the goal is to choose a branding strategy that matches your brand to better reach your customers and communicate with them on a meaningful level. Align your branding strategy with your brand personality, and you’ll create a plan that will help you to reach each and every goal.

Zaheer Dodhia is a serial entrepreneur and creator of DIY logo design tool Logo Design. He works with small businesses and startups on affordable branding solutions. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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I run 4 social media accounts for my business. Here are the free tools I use to automate the process and create valuable content.

Jen Glantz 2
Jen Glantz runs multiple social media accounts in under a few hours each month.

I’m a serial entrepreneur, which means my time and money are invested in multiple businesses and projects that I started from scratch. It also means that I do most of the heavy lifting of these businesses on my own. I’m not only responsible for scaling these projects and optimizing my website, but also for strategizing and executing on the marketing plan.

Early on, I found myself spending way too much time on tasks that felt more like a full-time job than just parts of the business. One of those tasks was social media. Managing four different social media accounts (one per business or project) became overwhelming, and it wasn’t in my budget to hire an assistant to help me plan and post.

Instead, I had to find innovative ways to automate my social media pages so that they’d be engaging, entertaining and educational for my audience, but not take me more than a few hours a month to manage.

Here are the ways I automate my social media accounts while also creating valuable content. 

1. Create a 30-day content calendar 

One of the biggest headaches of doing social media is trying to figure out what to post every single day. If you’re doing this in real-time, it can take hours. In order to stay consistent with posting on all four of my social media accounts, I use the last week of every month to create a content calendar for the next 30-days. 

I create this calendar as a spreadsheet that I spend the week contributing to and editing. On that calendar, I tap into my main content categories for each brand. I assign five to 10 content categories per brand (these are overall themes for what the account posts) so that I’m able to use that as a guide to decide what to post.

I also take into account holidays, key events, or big promotions and deals from my brands and plan for that within the month. I usually spend about two to three hours creating this plan for each brand and once it’s done, it serves as my game plan for the coming month.

2. Tap into automation tools 

When it comes to making sure my posts publish on social media on-time, I like to schedule the majority of my posts using automation tools. 

I take the completed content that I planned on my spreadsheet and I drop it into a scheduling tool (I use a free one called that will post for me on the day and time that I pick. This allows me to not have to manually go to each of my accounts and post something new in real-time. 

Having the majority of my posts automated and ready to go live in advance, saves me approximately hours across my four different accounts. 

3. Use free content creation tools

Jen Glantz
Glantz uses free content creation tools to save money.

Since I’m not a designer or photographer, I initially found creating social media content to be very time consuming. When I hired those professionals, I found myself spending thousands of dollars and a lot of time going back and forth with revisions to make sure the content was on brand.

To make this process easier and quicker, I found a handful of tools that are easy to use and help me create my content fast. I use one free tool to create graphics (Canva), another tool for free stock images ( and a final tool for photo editing (Fotor) to make the photo look professional.

This suite of tools allows me to create content pretty fast and it doesn’t cost me a penny. 

4. Pre-plan the content categories 

Another big thing that drains a lot of time when it comes to social media is figuring out what to actually post. 

One way that I automate this is by pre-planning the five content pillars and categories for each of my four accounts. I pick the main themes for each of my brands so that I can easily stay focused and have a clear strategy when it comes to deciding on the content to post.

I set these categories early on for each of my brands and when a new month is on the horizon and I need to figure out what to post, I just pull from those categories and plan it on the content calendar. 

5. Stick to a strategy 

I also use a 70-20-10 method for deciding on what kind of content to post and how often. I stick by this rule to make sure my content is engaging.

This means that 70% of my content is free value to my audience (facts, tips, behind-the-scenes, the story of the company), 20% of the content is user generated or shared from other experts or accounts, and 10% of the content are calls to action or promotions. 

Sticking with this strategy makes it easy to automate the type of frequency of content I post. 

6. Repeat what works best

When I want to make sure I’m finding ways to grow my social media accounts and perform well with engaging content, I simply tap into my in-app analytics to determine what’s working well and use that to plan for the next month.

Engagement metrics (likes, comments, shares) let me see what my most popular post formats and topics are. I then make it easy on myself and just repeat what works well on each account. 

Managing multiple social media accounts can start to feel overwhelming and be time consuming. If you plan properly, have systems in place and create your content in an organized way, it’ll become automated and easier than you imagine it ever could be.

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These are the groups, rooms, and influential voices you should know about on Clubhouse

clubhouse app 2
Clubhouse is an invitation-based, audio-only discussion platform.

  • Since its launch a year ago, Clubhouse has been popular among investors, entrepreneurs, and other successful people. 
  • The platform hosts live audio-only discussions where users can hear from people like Elon Musk and Barbara Corcoran.
  • These are the hottest stars to follow, best rooms to enter, and most valuable groups to join.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Clubhouse is where founders go to chat. 

Upon its launch last March, the social app quickly became popular among investors, who hold regular, live audio-only discussions, called “rooms,” in some cases within various topics of interest to groups called “clubs.” Business owners soon followed, building a roster of virtual educational events and places to hone their storytelling skills, commiserate about entrepreneurial life, and share experiences with the likes of high-profile users like Daymond John and Jason Fried. 

If you can get an invitation – Kristin Marquet Chester, owner of New York City-based Marquet Media, recommends starting by asking your closest friends and then making requests on social media if needed. Here are three types of rooms and clubs worth checking out for entrepreneurs. To find these events in the app, search for the relevant speakers or the name of the club. 

The stars

The access to famous people on Clubhouse is “mind blowing,” said Jeremy Knauff, CEO at digital marketing agency Spartan Media. “It’s like cramming everybody into a stadium and doing an episode of ‘Shark Tank.'” Spend enough time networking with people on the app, and you might be able to connect with and ask questions of celebrity entrepreneurs directly. Here are a few people whom you should follow: 

  • “Shark Tank” star Daymond John runs a club called If You Want to Be Rich, Think Like This!!! He often pops into other rooms as well to opine on everything from building a diverse pipeline to cryptocurrency, advised Zachary Klempf, CEO of San Francisco-based Selly Automotive CRM. 
  • John’s fellow Shark Barbara Corcoran doesn’t have a club but hosts in her own rooms and speaks as a guest in others. This week, she hosted a charity event in the club Leadership Lab with Kat Cole, former president of Cinnabon and another frequently recommended Clubhouser, focused on breaking barriers for women at work. One piece of advice she shared that she regularly gives to her “Shark Tank” companies’ founders when they’re burned out: Make a list of everything you love and everything you hate about running your business, and delegate the latter.  
  • Other recommended speakers, from Clubhouse power users including Klempf and Abhi Mathur, founder and CEO of New York City-based Acoustic Meta Materials: Elon Musk, who speaks in Clubhouse sporadically (memorably once to grill Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev), investor Ben Horowitz, entrepreneur Rebecca Minkoff, and Basecamp CEO Jason Fried

Startup and pitch rooms 

There are practically too many startup and pitch rooms and clubs to count, but here are a few recommendations:

  • Startup Club, run by Ed Nusbaum – startup mentor and co-founder of Agora, which helps companies with tasks like conversion and monetization – is one of the best clubs for founders to learn, practice their pitches, and even make hires, according to multiple founders. You can follow frequent moderator and admin Soumeya Benghanem, product management lead at VMware and an entrepreneur. And check out Pitch Practice, which is run in the club every Tuesday by Shondra Washington, president and co-founder at TBC-Capital, and Chris Moreno, an investor focused on Latinx entrepreneurs.
  • Deal or Bust: Founders Shoot Their Shot, hosted by Nathan Latka, CEO of and a business podcaster. In this room, investors wire money on the spot to promising startups, and Latka said he plans to run one each Monday moving forward. 
  • Startup Hotline: What Investors Really Think of Your Idea room (in the VC & Angel Investors Club), hosted each Wednesday by San Francisco-based Hustle Fund general partner and co-founder Elizabeth Yin. It’s not always easy to get kind or straightforward feedback from venture capitalists, Yin said. That’s where this room comes in: It’s a no-pressure forum to practice and get honest commentary. Mac Conwell, managing partner at RareBreed Ventures, said he has scouted companies while moderating in the room.
  • Future of Work, which delves into topics from entrepreneurship to raising capital. Bob Myers, chairman of SKYL, a startup consultancy, said he swears by the room for “thinking creatively about how working culture might change as time goes on.” 
  • Scott Omelianuk, editor in chief of Inc., regularly hosts events on entrepreneurship.
  • Other recommended rooms, from Myers, Yin, Burning Soul founder Lauren Eckhardt, and Pietra Communications CEO Olga Gonzalez: Breakfast With Champions – Millionaire Breakfast Club for its thought-provoking sessions; The Hustler Club for unvarnished feedback from other founders; and Leadership Lab for deep dives on company culture. 

Networking and affinity groups 

Katherine Lynn, founder and CEO of job application platform NextSteps, was tired of hearing men on Clubhouse talk about how easy it was to raise money. So she started Women Founders Club in September with Liana Fricker, founder of Inspiration Space, a virtual community for entrepreneurs. The Women Founders Club now has more than 70,000 followers, and features stars like Alli Webb and investor Brit Morin as speakers. Here are some other affinity and networking groups to try:

  • The Sisterhood of Influential Entrepreneurs, run by fashion blogger Zavanna Dova. While many clubs are good for practicing and learning, this one, along with Women in Business 40+, also provides a venue to share your experiences, said leadership coach and consulting business owner Karen Laos. Keya Grant, director of supplier inclusion at Papa John’s, also recommends Tryb because it “holds space” for Black women entrepreneurs that can be difficult to carve out on other social media platforms. 
  • Entrepreneur Noir. Grant is a founder of this room and said besides being a diverse space where everyone is welcome, it’s an opportunity for business owners to connect with corporate buyers like herself who are looking to diversify their supply chains.
  • Small Business Saturday. Every Saturday, Bria McNair, an HR professional who also runs a professional coaching business called Be Wise Forever, hosts a room in The Hustler Club for business owners to share their experiences and support one another.
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WATCH: Next-Gen founders talk racial equity in tech, and share insight on navigating the industry

Racial equity in tech has become a major talking point this past year, but has that talk been paired with action? 

In the United States, still only about 1% of Black entrepreneurs receive funding for their businesses. In 2018, TechCrunch reported over 80% of VC firms don’t have one Black investor, and though about 13% of the US population is Black, only about 4% of the VC industry identifies as African American, Bloomberg reported.

After calls for racial justice swept the nation last summer, Insider wanted to know if anything has changed for Black founders looking to find their footing in the tech industry. 

So, we spoke to them. 

On Thursday, February 25, Insider’s reporter Dominic-Madori Davis chatted with  Realtime CEO and cofounder Vernon Coleman, Yac cofounder Jordan Walker, and Cashmere cofounder Urenna Okonkwo about their journeys in tech and the future they wish to see in the industry. Okonkwo, who is based in the United Kingdom, also gave her perspective as to what it’s like raising money as a Black entrepreneur across the pond. 

Together, the trio shared advice for aspiring founders on how to navigate the industry, as well as lessons they wish they knew when they began their entrepreneurial journeys.  

You can watch the full digital event above. 

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I made $490,000 launching a maternity clothing brand during the pandemic. I also experienced a personal loss. Here’s what it taught me.

Elle Wang
“When nothing seemed to be going my way, I learned to pivot,” says founder Elle Wang.

  • Elle Wang is the founder and creative director of New York-based clothing brand Emilia George.
  • She was working full-time from home, caring for her toddler, and running her clothing business at night in early 2020.
  • After a miscarriage in June, Wang says she made changes to her strained schedule to prioritize her health.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

I first had the urge to create high-end maternity workwear when I was seven months pregnant in February 2019. I was working full-time, and felt simply pushed over the edge by the uncomfortable clothing I wore to work everyday – the first thing I did when I got home was get naked. 

Elle Wang
Models wearing dresses from the Emilia George Debut Collection.

I’d always enjoyed fashion and would go to fashion week shows when I had a chance, but I had zero background, contacts, or training in clothing and design. Since I had no idea how to draw, I worked with several independent designers to create maternity collections.

After giving birth and spending months turning my idea into a reality, we officially launched Emilia George on December 10, 2019. 

A few months later, COVID-19 hit.

I had barely introduced my business to potential customers across Manhattan. My husband and I had to quickly pull our child out of daycare and began working from home for our full-time jobs.

Soon, I began receiving emails from production partners and fabrics suppliers saying they’d be closed for the unforeseen future. Promising retailer partners told me that all new brand onboarding had to stop. 

At the same time, I was taking care of our 1-year-old son in a city filled with sirens and horrific numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths. It took a toll on me, and I wanted to quit many times. 

When nothing seemed to be going my way, I learned to pivot.

As I bootstrapped my business, production partners closed and major retailers barely stayed afloat. I had enough reasons to shut down Emilia George over and over again once the pandemic began, but I didn’t. 

Instead, I cut down costs by completely halting digital marketing spend on Facebook and Instagram. The only partner I kept was my PR team, who proved instrumental in driving brand awareness during such a strange time. 

When we entered April 2020, we decided to make face masks to help alleviate the shortening supply. The launch was covered by sites like Vogue and Elle, and soon we were flooded with orders. We sold over $40,000 worth of masks alone in May. 

In June, the National Institutes of Health asked us to make customized masks for their employees – one of which Dr. Anthony Fauci wore at a Senate hearing in September. 

fauci nih
Dr. Fauci wearing the mask made by Emilia George in September 2020.

While it helps to be a lean startup, being a one-woman show came with hardships.

After we began working from home, my husband and I had planned to conceive again. But we weren’t prepared to do our jobs while taking care of our toddler full-time from home. Being the founder and CEO of a new one-woman startup was exhausting on top of childcare, and my day job being a partnerships and strategy advisor at the United Nations.

Most days, it was only after 7 p.m. that I finally had big chunks of time to work on Emilia George, from fulfilling orders to talking to my production partners and suppliers in Asia. At the height of the pandemic, I often had to fill orders until 1 or 2 a.m. before I could even think about going to bed. 

My production partners overseas in Italy and China often asked me if I ever slept. I did – just not that much. For a good few months, I was only sleeping for around four hours a night. 

I had a miscarriage in June.

I always wondered if my crazy work hours and stress had caused it. When I got pregnant again a couple of months later, my husband and I were determined to make changes to better safeguard our health needs as a family.

Elle Wang
Wang’s baby’s gender reveal Zoom party during quarantine.

We found a live-in nanny to help with childcare and hired additional team members to help with Emilia George’s operations. Now, we have a team of six awesome women, and are continuing to grow.

As my accountant was about to close the books for 2020 – Emilia George’s very first year – I noticed our gross revenue: over $490,000. To make sure my being 29 weeks pregnant hadn’t resulted in some numerical error, I double checked with her. It was true: I’d made nearly half a million dollars from launching a pregnancy clothing line during COVID-19, all with a toddler at home and a baby on the way, not to mention while managing a full-time job.

While I was surprised and happy by this success, I knew it came as a result of countless hours of behind-the-scenes work and dedication that was far from easy.

I’ve learned the best thing I can do to support other entrepreneurial women is to share my story.

Elle Wang
Wang’s son at Emilia George’s new HQ in Tribeca.

I understand the work and perseverance it takes to grow a startup as a working mom. So many people have fantastic ideas, but finding that initial investment can be incredibly daunting. When it comes down to it, the better connected we are, the more we can do. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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