The idea behind becoming a successful entrepreneur is to take your parents’ advice…and then ignore it, BE Conference panelists say.
Finish college, get a steady job, put lucrative work ahead of your passion? That’s not the message for these young entrepreneurs who are continuing to build and expand their brands.
“I think college for me was a complete waste of time,” Lauryn Evarts Bosstick, founder of the lifestyle blog and podcast The Skinny Confidential , recalled. “I was doing all the things I was supposed to be doing…it wasn’t for me.” However, her aborted plan to join a college sorority was one of the triggers that led her to become a digital influencer as a way to connect with others. “I was broke, I was bartending, and joining a sorority cost $800,” she said. “I said, OK, how can I create this online, and do it for free?”
She added that her advice for building your own brand is to get an unchallenging night job to pay the bills and work on your dream career as “a side hustle.” Through a job in the service industry, like food service or bartending, “you are learning how to finesse, learning how to sell, but not creating energy away from your side hustle.”
Moderator Nicole Walters, CEO of Inherent Learning and star of USA Network’s “She’s the Boss,” left the corporate world to pursue her career as a communicator. She joked that part of learning to connect with social media followers is to allow them to see the real person behind the media image. Walters, who joked that her own image is “a functional hot mess,” said she lets viewers see a woman and parent who might forget to wear deodorant or put on a bra. “That’s exactly what people are looking for,” she said.
Evarts Bosstick said she learned about letting reality into the message when, four years into her blogging career she had a 16-hour jaw surgery that left her perfect face swollen for three years. It caused “a full-blown identity crisis, it was really humbling,” she said. On the other hand, she discovered audiences connected with someone who was going through a real challenge, rather than fretting about her nail polish color.
“I hate the word authentic, I need to look up another word for that, (but) can you lay it all on the table?” she said. She added that one of the things she likes most about podcasting is that her followers can listen to the words while accomplishing something useful in their own lives, such as cleaning, cooking or exercising.
Kathleen Pagan, CEO and founder of Endlessly Elated luxury housewares company, said her parents believed that the key to a successful life was to go to college, get a good job, buy a house and then retire. Instead, she built her own company based on doing the thing the she has loved since childhood, focusing on design and the comforts of home. “It took a long time, many years, a lot of sleepless nights’ until she really came to believe in herself, she said.
Actor and comedian Lala Milan, whose YouTube channel has more than 370,000 subscribers, joined Mi Li in finding that college wasn’t the answer — particularly when she discovered that money came faster when she began pursuing her own dream to become a performer and personality.
“It doesn’t matter what business you are in, when you get into it, it’s going to crowded,” Milan said. “There are a million comedians, a million influencers, but only one me … no one is going to be Lala Milan. That’s what’s kept me staying afloat.”
Kelly Mi Li, entrepreneur as well as executive producer and actor for “Bling Empire”, said she feels a responsibility to become a role model for both immigrants and young women of Asian descent, particularly in light of the “extremely heartbreaking” attacks on Asians in the U.S. that have intensified during the pandemic.
“Growing up in the U.S. as an immigrant, I really didn’t have anyone to look up to…I secretly wished I looked different,” she said, adding the she hopes to see an increase in Asian representation both in front of and behind the camera, to “hopefully leave the planet a little better” for the next generation.
The BE Conference is comprised of three days of mentorship, education and career-building workshops by the most influential women in media and entertainment, WrapWomen. For more information visit: https://www.thewrap.com/be-conference-2021/