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I Quit My Job 3 Years Ago And Built A Badass Brand With These 5 Steps

Business

Today, I'm stopping to do the one thing we all fail to do: pat myself on the back and toot my own damn horn!


Today marks exactly three years to the day that I walked off my job as a TV anchor to become a full-time blogger and entrepreneur.

It's even taken me that long to be able to clearly define what it is that I do, because for the longest time, I struggled with this whole entrepreneurship thing. To be honest, I hated being called a blogger until this year, when everything seemed legit and it all sunk in. It wasn't until this year that the work I'd been pumping in all this time finally transformed my freelance "gigs" into the badass brand I knew it could be.

Related: 11 Women Share Their Biggest Career Mistakes

Year three for me is all about reflection and realization.

I've come to the realization that my brand is valuable. I've built something that I'm proud of and can show off to anyone who asks. I've built something that is authentically me and highly respected.

My brand has gotten the attention of so many people at home and around the world, that now, I want to help you build your brand by sharing some of the things that worked for me as I pieced together my own.

5 Steps to Building Your Own Badass Brand

1. Define it

This was one of the hardest things for me to do, but I had to do it rather quickly.

Defining what your brand looks like, sounds like, feels like, and how it comes across to others is crucial and critical in the early days. This sets the tone and creates the basis from which everything else emerges. What is it that you'll be doing, who is your audience, what does your brand voice sound like? Figuring out (and sticking to) these things is important to finding the roadmap to brand building. It helps to build trust, credibility, and authority.

2. Pick, choose, and refuse

Everything and everyone will not be for you! I repeat: EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE WILL NOT BE FOR YOU!

I had to literally sift through the gigs, invitations, events, and even people I involved myself with. If it didn't look like, walk like, talk like the brand I was building, it had to go! TO THE LEFT, TO THE LEFT! In building my brand, I learned real quickly that everything I did either helped or hindered it. I learned the hard way that there was no separating me from my brand, there were no off days, no personal days, and that I was my brand 24/7, so everything I did was reflective of that. Ever wondered why you don't see Beyonce at certain events, or see Aunty Oprah in selfies with any and everybody? They're super aware of their brands and know what works and what doesn't work for it.

3. Build your tribe

What's Beyonce without the Beehive? What's Rihanna without her Navy? What's your brand without your tribe?

It isn't a coincidence that many celebrities have christened their fans with a pet name that endears them closer to the star; Lady Gaga with her Monsters, Toni Braxton and her Tigers. What these singers did is that they were successful in building their tribes, not just amassing fans. A fan or follower knows you, sees your work, and might engage. A member of your tribe shares common goals, interests, a bond, and helps develop a community. They are engaged, loyal, interactive, and invested. They trust you and you influence them. Find out who your tribe is and consistently speak to them through your work.

4. Now maintain your tribe

Once you've identified your tribe, it could be a tricky thing keeping them entertained and involved. This is where your tribe becomes your family!

Engaging with members of your tribe is super important as it further tightens an already strong bond. Answering questions, replying to comments, liking, leaving a kind word or "yaaaasss girl" on their posts as well, avoids the relationship from becoming one-sided. As tribe leader, you have to show interest in your tribe as well; show that you support their work and follow their moves. Your tribe members want to feel special, they want to know they matter, and not feel like a regular schmegular fan, because they're not.

5. Keep it real

This, perhaps, is my favorite step! Throughout this journey I've taken, I'm super proud that everything I did remained true to who I am, and what I stand for.

Everyone who knows me, knows that aint a damn thing changed! Being authentically you is the only way to be successful at anything, and since a personal brand is solely based on who you are, there's no way to ace it if you're being someone else. Keep your accent, don't change your tone of voice, dress how you always dressed, DON'T SWITCH ON YOUR FRIENDS, remember your family, seek out work you want to do, don't try to be someone else, remain consistent, share the good times, teach lessons about the bad times, share the struggles and triumphs, tests and testimonies…and don't lie to yourself.

Related: To Live a Purpose-Filled Life, You Have to Leave Your Comfort Zone

If something isn't your cup of tea, don't drink it because the "successful" person did. If a gig aint for you, don't sign up because, "Well, she did it!" People aren't stupid and they can see right through a fraud! Be authentically you and keep it all the way real!

I can't believe I'm in year three already! Un-frickin-believable! I plan to make my brand bigger, better, and more valuable in the days and years to come…Oh and eat some cake to celebrate!

How far along are you in building your brand? What are you doing well at; what struggles are you having? Let's chat in the comments!

*Originally published on Ianthia Smith

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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