The Michelle Gifford Podcast episode 67: How to Work with Big Brands with Kristen Ley
I interviewed Kristen Ley from Thimble Press and KristenLey.com on my podcast. Kristen has so much good advice about how to work with big brands in business and also how to pivot in your business. I could just talk with her for hours! I’m going to try and summarize the main takeaways in this blog post, but believe me, you’ll want to listen to the whole podcast! Kristen is really fun to listen to and she will definitely help you feel more empowered to get through this hard quarantine time.
Here’s Kristen’s story:
Two years ago Kristen was hacked. She went through a really hard time in her business. But she really feels that totally prepared her for this scenario. It’s really scary if you’ve never been through anything like this where sales just drop and you can easily walk into panic mode. Kristen shared that back in college, she read a study that basically said in the great depression, the companies that continued to market themselves and show up in people’s faces, they are the companies that people remembered. And these companies are huge companies today. They withstood the test of time. Kristen says, “I keep telling people. Don’t shy away, show up for your people. Even if that means just listening and giving away free content. Just spread the joy not the germs.”
I totally agree with what Kristen is saying. It’s so important to just keep showing up. People need to know how to grow their business and they need happiness and encouragement. This is not the end for anyone. Make sure your business is ready for the long term.
Kristen started Thimble Press in 2012 years ago in her garage. Thimble Press create products that bring you joy and brighten up your space. They partner with a lot of companies (Target, Hallmark, etc.) that they feel like they align with well. And then in 2018 Kristen launched KristenLey.com where she work with mostly female entrepreneurs. She does monthly mentoring, creative calls, provides resources, etc. She’s even hoping to launch a mastermind later this year.
You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear all about how Kristen went from creating and printing products in her garage to getting contracts with Target and Hallmark. Let me just tell you this, it was a wild ride! From Thimble Press’s birth in 2012, to the point where Kristen was hacked in 2018 and lost a lot of money and contracts, she talks through her experiences with growing her business really quickly and then ultimately re-evaluating everything after being hacked.
Kristen’s Pivot Point:
After being hacked, she decided to completely change the trajectory of her business and ended up letting her 20+ employees go. She says she was moving so quickly with her growth that she never took stock of how she was feeling and if what she was working towards was really what she wanted for her life and her business. This was a huge pivot for her and her business.
Kristen says, “The hard stuff is the stuff that propels us forward into thinking in a new way. And picking ourselves up by our bootstraps and making it happen.”
Through this hard pivot, Kristen signed an amazing art agent for Thimble Press and also started her coaching website because she wanted to be there for other people who are going through hard things.
Kristen’s Tips to Embracing the Pivot Points in Your Business:
- Rely on your faith. Surrender yourself to your faith/a higher power. You can’t do it all on your own. When Kristen got back into that it helped so much. She had to realize there are bigger things at play. During this time she also started journaling and praying daily.
- What do you/your company do best? Kristen asked herself, “What does Thimble Press do best? What are the best things we sell? What do we, as a company, do best when it comes to our customers? How can we make our customers feel seen, loved and heard?”
- Evaluate your time. Where are you spending your time every day? Where is your money coming in from every day? What is your passion?
Time, heart, money equation– from Kristen’s friend, Katie Hunt. Write it down.
Your time. What are you spending your time on every day?
Money. Where is your money coming in from?
Heart. Are these things also where your heart truly lies? Is it your passion? If something is a high time project, but doesn’t fill your passion or make any money, you probably don’t need to be doing it.
- Are all the people you employ necessary and are they moving the business forward? In a way that helps the business?
I love this list that Kristen shares. I really believe we need to get back to our ‘Why’. Why are we doing any of this? Ask God, is this really how and where you want me to serve? Sometimes we forget to ask, and he needs to remind us that we should be doing something else. We all need to take stock of what is happening in our business and in our life. There’s a hymn in my church with the line, “be more fit for the kingdom” and I’ve been thinking about that a lot. In my business I need to be more fit. I need to be sure that I’ve got the right people and that I’m serving the best way I can.
Kristen’s Tips for How to Work with Big Brands:
- Be Deliberate About Your Marketing: I put a lot of effort and work into marketing Thimble Press and having it be a fun and joyful brand. I think ultimately it was God’s hand in all of it.
- Send Joy Into the Universe: When I would send out promotional boxes before the big craft shows I would send out hundreds of party in a box promotional boxes. There was so many fun things in the boxes that I would ship to the company addresses. I didn’t even know who I was shipping these boxes to or if it was ok to do it. So I just mailed them to the headquarters of the companies I wanted to work with. I still don’t know if they even got the boxes. If you can believe it, I even sent one to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. I doubt he got it. But I do think there’s something about sending that joy out into the universe. And I’ve worked with all of the companies that I sent those boxes too. Minus Mark Zuckerberg. Haha!
- Market Yourself to the Big Brands Online: Follow them. Comment on their social media posts and get to know their people. I can’t say I pitched Hallmark or Target, because they pitched me. Which doesn’t happen often. But when I do pitch companies, I send them a brand book, which is a snapshot of your brand in a pdf. Could they find your information on your website? Yes. But they don’t want to have to do that. Make it easy for them to get to know you and your brand.
- Know Who You Are and Your Core Values: If you don’t know your core values, who you are, what your mission is, and who your ideal customers are, this is a great time to dig in and figure that out. And then use that information to develop a brand book. Because that will give you this level up of professionalism over just a regular email with no attachments.
Michelle’s takeaways on how to work with big brands:
- Know where you’re going. What do you really want?
- Don’t be afraid. Don’t put up fear barriers to what you want to happen.
- Present yourself as a professional. Take ownership and take your business seriously.
As you can see, Kristen and I covered a lot of ground as we talked through how to work with big brands and how to survive pivot points in our businesses and lives. I know, for me, I just recently went through a big pivot point and it was yucky at times. There’s a lot that goes into changing things in our businesses that is just plain hard, right? But, I can tell you know that I’m on the other side of that pivot, I’m so much happier! I feel a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I know how I can serve my people more effectively.
So, what about you? What did you take away from my conversation Kristen? Did you know she’s also really big on vision boards? You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear what she thinks of those, and how to use them in your daily life and business. Trust me when I say, you’ll want to start utilizing vision boards after hearing her talk about them!
Is your business at a pivot point? Are you ready for the next 1, 5, or even 10 years? Do you know where you are headed and how to get where you ultimately want to be? Join my new coaching group, Michelle’s Money Makers now to get help with all fo these questions and more! Right now you can get in the group for just $19.99/mo for the lifetime of your membership with code michelle10. Click HERE to sign up now!
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