Last weekend Desk Life Project went along to the Self Made Summit, an event put together by Cosmopolitan Magazine and featuring a whole host of amazing speakers. It’s not often you get so many big names and founders in one building, and we thought what better way to give you a snapshot of the event than to share some of the most inspiring and helpful quotes with you, from many of the exciting founders who attended the event. Get settled, prepare your mind sponge, and get ready to feel that warm mix of career envy and sudden drive to get your business off the ground.
Let’s start with the ‘Harness the Power of Social Media to Make a Mint’ panel. The below quotes came from the three expert speakers, and were a fantastic insight into the inner workings of an influencer’s channel, and even Instagram HQ themselves!
Ella Mills, Founder of Deliciously Ella
“The one question that I think is really important to ask yourself when it comes to social media is: what is it that you want to do with it? Do you want to start your own business and use it as a springboard for that, by using it as a kind of marketing tool to drive engagement, customer understanding, or a research and development platform? Or do you want to use it to brand ‘you’ and create partnerships? I think they’re probably two very different areas. I have found that people just want to get to know you, and there is SO much out there already. So many people that have better cameras or better videos or videographers or lighting or something, so what is it that you can do in a realistic sense that’s going to make you stand out? I do think that it’s just having a personality.”
Amy Cole, Head of Brand Development at Instagram
“I joined Instagram as the 6th employee, we were really early on in those days, it was right in the very beginning. I think so many businesses have realised that it’s such a powerful tool. The incredible thing about Instagram is because it’s so visual you can immediately make a connection and tell stories, it creates a more level playing field whether you’re a large brand or a small brand… Think about what your story is and how you tell [it]… Especially with [Instagram] Stories, it’s an even better way to give those little glimpses into who you are.”
Lewys Ball, YouTuber and Founder of Lookingforlewys
“It’s trial and error, you just have to find something that’s genuine to you and also sets you apart from everyone else and makes you different, and makes people want to follow you and know more about you… I’ve seen an engagement increase when I’ve started to show my personality more… Interact with other users, not necessarily just people who are following you but other people, people who are posting stuff in a similar field to you, people you’re going to have a natural connection with… Pick up on trends, I think that’s something that’s really helped me a lot. If there’s something that’s going viral in your community, even if you just post a Story about it…it’s relevant.”
Want to build an incredible brand, be it business brand or personal? Then this next panel was one for you. We listened to ‘Brand Image: How to Find and Build Your USP’, and were treated to some amazing quotes from three people who know exactly how to craft a brand to perfection.
Nicola Haste, Co-Founder of Pixiwoo
“The reason we’ve been here for so long is because we haven’t sold out, and we don’t need to… It took a really long time for us to realise we’re a brand. We just couldn’t take it on that, from being these makeup artists that were just girls working in stores and doing freelance, suddenly we had to be a brand and that was a turning point for us, switching to a different page… I actually lost who I was for a really long time, because you don’t want to offend anyone…. Then we kind of found ourselves again. It’s an amazing journey because you go full circle. You start thinking ‘oh no, I’ve got to be this way’, and then you think ‘no actually, I’m quite happy with who I am’.”
James Gold, Co-Founder of Skinny Dip
“You either have to be the cheapest, or you have to be the best. When we launched Skinny Dip, we wanted to be the best, and that doesn’t just mean the best products, it means the best experience. So in terms of actually producing content, it’s about making sure that the content you’re producing is engaging and you’re talking to your customer. Branding now is so much more than just the products that you offer… There’s always going to be competition, but it’s about how we can make Skinny Dip as strong as possible, what we can do for not just the in-store experience but the online experience… What are you doing across your business, branding and social media that differentiates you from everyone else?”
Niomi Smart, Super-Influencer
“Since the beginning I’ve always been very careful about the brands that I work with. It would be so easy to say yes to anything. You’re being offered a figure and it’s tempting. I was very strict on myself, I could almost see the way it could go, my career. Yes, I’d be making more money, but I’d lose that authenticity and I’d lose that trust with my audience, which is what my whole business is built on. Now I actually work with brands that I genuinely love, my audience have seen me use products naturally for years now, so if and when a campaign comes along with one of those brands then it’s amazing, it’s something I love doing and it just fits.”
Love a super-influencer? Us too. Especially if they have a mind-changing movement behind them like Tess Holiday. Tess was a keynote speaker at the event, and here’s one of her stand-out moments.
Tess Holliday, Model and Author
“I’ve built my career and ‘Eff Your Beauty Standards’ through authenticity, and I feel like authenticity is important. It’s important if you’re comfortable. For me, everyone knows when I’m having a bad day. I’m very open about my mental health, my postpartum, what it’s like to be a mother. I try not to be an over-sharer and bombard people, I don’t want to be the person who’s always negative, but I also think it’s important for people to realise that just because I happen to be sitting here doesn’t mean that my life is perfect, because it’s not, and that I have it all figured out, because I don’t. So if there is something that closely identifies with you and something you feel you could help other people with, then why not do it? Social media is a great gift to be able to connect and help other people if you choose to.”
Emma Willis, TV Presenter
“Keep an open mind. The one thing I tell my kids when they won’t eat a certain food is ‘it’s always good to try new things’, so if [you have an idea] of what you want to do, give it a go, do some work experience, and maybe it’s not right for you, but maybe you’ll find something through that… You just never know… Keep your options open, network, and try new things.”
One of the most interesting panels at the event was called ‘Confessions from the Front Line of Start-Ups’, where four entrepreneurs from three companies talked about their journey, struggles and what they wish they’d known in the beginning. Here’s what they said.
Jamie Laing and Ed Williams, Co-Founders of Candy Kittens
“It’s about building relationships, because you have no idea down the line how they’re going to help you, and everyone’s in it together… With start-ups everybody wants to help each other because they’re in the same boat and it’s a pretty scary sea out there. The best way to gain knowledge is through talking to people and their own experiences, because you can read all the books, but at the end of the day it’s about experiencing it. Business is paid in two currencies; cash and experience. You have the experience first and the cash comes later. Don’t expect to be making money straight away, do it because you learn so much, and once you’ve learnt as much as you can, then you start to make the money, once you understand it.”
Daniel Murray, Co-Founder of Grabble
“[A really good process is] to write everything down in a list, it doesn’t matter how many there are, and then you basically just number them on impact and effort. So if you can think really logically and purposefully, and don’t get into it in a deep, emotional way, how much effort is this thing and how much impact? If it’s tons of effort and low impact on whether your business is going to succeed, then it goes last, and obviously if it’s the opposite, it goes first… It’s so interesting every time you do that process… It becomes a really simple way to look at prioritisation. It’s pretty much the hardest thing founders have to work through.”
One of the most inspiring speakers we found at the event was Devika Wood, founder of Vida. When asked about her experience of being a female founder in the male dominated health tech industry, here’s what she said.
Devika Wood, Founder of Vida
“I’d say [being a female CEO] is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done… Did I have to change myself? Did I have to become more ‘manly’? Did I have to change my nature to fit in and be taken seriously? I did that in the beginning, I made myself be really stern and really un-feminine, and it just wasn’t me, and then I thought if I do that then I’m not going to pave the way for other female founders to come in.”
Thank you to Jazmin Kirk Photography for some of these amazing shots!