The First Ever Badass Creatives Marketing Accelerator: What I Learned & What’s Next
Last weekend I hosted the very first Badass Creatives Marketing Accelerator. I’m so proud of what we accomplished during the inaugural “cohort” and I can’t wait to host another one. (But it’s going to have to wait. I’ll spill the tea on what’s next at the end of this post.)
It’s funny, because now that I work in the world of tech startups by day as Director of Marketing at LookFar, I had to explain to some people that it wasn’t an accelerator program by that world’s definition. Instead, I envisioned a retreat-style, weekend long workshop that would help creative solopreneurs and micro-businesses quickly accelerate their marketing strategy.
In order to make sure that everyone who participated would be a good fit for the program and to ensure that I could help them “accelerate” their business, I conducted phone interviews with interested potential participants to learn more about their businesses and marketing goals. In the end, I had 5 different women-owned businesses participate in the inaugural cohort: Bella & Harlow, Boss Bitch Design, Freeman Furnishings, Marrow Creative, and New Orleans Green.
(The program wasn’t intentionally women-only, and I’d be happy to have men join in the future, but there was a serendipitous alignment between the women who joined this first group. Even though they all have very different businesses and are at different stages of business, there were plenty of similarities in their goals for the weekend and their vision for how their companies could impact the world.)
Prior to the weekend of the event, I asked each attendee to fill out a detailed worksheet that would help me better understand their brand, their marketing goals, their strengths & weaknesses as they saw them, and their vision for their company.
I then created a “Roadmap” for each attendee – basically an individualized plan of action that would guide what each business should be focused on in terms of marketing their business. The roadmaps outlined primary & secondary marketing goals and short-term and secondary action steps. I also shared my marketing vision for each business, based on the information they’d provided in the brand worksheet and our conversations.
I don’t believe in prescriptive marketing advice, or that there is a single “right” way to run a business or spread the word about a company. It was important to me to understand where each person was coming from, to help them understand the big picture about marketing their business, and then translate that into actionable next steps.
On the evening of Friday, June 1, 2018, we kicked off the weekend with a fantastic get-to-know-you dinner at Jack Rose restaurant. The fact that they have a painting by local artist Ashley Longshore of Lil Wayne in the restaurant lobby was one selling point, but the food and overall vibe of the dinner was exactly what I hoped for.
On Saturday and Sunday morning, we reconvened at Landing Zone, a co-working space in the Lower Garden District where I’d rented a conference room for the weekend.
My plan for the event was a mix of presentations where I would teach information about branding, websites, SEO, social media, PR & publicity, and community building, as well as group discussions and individual “hot seats” on how that information related to the specific needs of the people in the room.
On Saturday afternoon, my friend and speaker Lelia Gowland joined us to lead a session she called Professional Confidence through Self-Compassion (aka: How to Be Nicer to Yourself for Fun and Profit). I think it was just what we all needed after a lunch break on the first day. I know that for myself and many other high-achieving women, confidence and self-compassion can sometimes be hard to come by in a world of Instagram-picture-perfect comparison traps and perfectionism.
I also built in plenty of time for breaks, so that people could immediately implement some of the material we’d talked about and so that I could answer questions. (Or if they just needed a few minutes to decompress and take a break, they could do that too!)
In the coming weeks, I’ll also do some followup checkins via email with each attendee, as well as a 1-hour followup consultation with each attendee to answer any questions and ensure that they feel confident in moving forward with their marketing strategy.
What I learned:
I think everyone who joined me for the accelerator learned a lot, but I learned some things too, and there are a few tweaks I would make when I host similar events in the future.
First off, I learned that I could do this! While I’ve produced and hosted workshops before, this was my first time doing something of this magnitude, with everything resting squarely on my shoulders. I was inspired by a presentation on hosting retreats that I saw Michelle Villalobos give at NSA New Orleans in mid-March. She encouraged us to pick a date 30-90 days in the future, and just DO IT.
Within a week after seeing her, I’d decided on this June 1-3 date and the wheels were in motion. I figured a lot of things out along the way, and there were moments when I was afraid it wouldn’t work, or that I’d only have 1 or 2 participants, but I’m so glad I took the chance and believed in my ability to pull this off.
Second, there are some logistical things that I’d tweak next time. Because this was the first time I’d done this, I didn’t have a registration deadline, and one of my attendees signed up literally 2 days before the event. The over-achiever in me managed to create her roadmap in time and I feel good about how things worked out, but in the future, I’ll have a registration cut-off and incentivize early-bird signups differently.
I also realized that there were 2 different types of entrepreneurs that were interested in this program and that I am interested in working with. In the future, I would tailor each “cohort” to be focused on 1 of those 2 types of businesses.
In this group, I was lucky that everyone had a somewhat similar focus even though none of the businesses compete directly with each other. They are all product-based businesses and everyone was interested in learning how to use e-commerce to sell more of their products directly to their customers.
However, during my initial discovery calls, I also talked to service-based B2B businesses such as copywriters, public speakers, graphic designers, and accountants. The timing didn’t work out for any of those B2B businesses to join us for this first cohort, but I really love working with these types of businesses to come up with creative personal branding and marketing strategies that fit their business goals and personal strengths.
In the future, I’d offer 2 different accelerator programs to these groups of businesses, as the information they need is somewhat different.
What they said:
There are a few other things I’d tweak in the future too, but overall, I’m really proud of how this first event went. And when I asked for feedback from the participants I was happy to hear an enthusiastic and positive response.
Rosalie Torres of New Orleans Green told me she thought the program offered “great extended engagement in a small group setting that was easily tailored to individual needs with both lecture & discussion and individual time with Mallory. It’s an efficient kick start to all that’s important for truly taking marketing and social media from wherever you are to the next level.”
I’m really excited to watch everyone’s progression over the next few months and to see how their businesses evolve from here.
I had this moment where I thought I should use the momentum of this event and immediately get the next accelerator on the books. Then I stopped myself.
While I definitely want to do more of these accelerators in the future, my immediate priority is writing my next book.
I learned a lot from the iterative process of writing my first book, How to Make Money at Craft Shows. It started out as a bunch of different blog posts that I later added more content to and turned into a PDF book, which I sold via Etsy. Once that was accomplished, I later figured out how to format the book for Kindle, and a year or so after that, I self-published softcover printed copies via Createspace.
I’m planning to self-publish the next book as well, but I want to be a bit more deliberate and strategic this time. Over the next few weeks I’ll be working on the outline, and I plan to spend the rest of the summer writing the first draft. Once that’s done, I’ll dig into the logistics of revisions and preparing for publication. I’m also planning to launch a Kickstarter to pre-sell the book and to cover the costs of things like editors, layout and book cover design.
The topic of the book? It will be centered around “embracing your weird” and owning the things about yourself that make you YOU. They’re the unique qualities and interests that help us stand out, be memorable, and make an impact in the world. Whether you’re a business owner or building a personal brand in order to move your career forward, tapping into your “weird” is a key piece of the puzzle. Weird is not a bad word, and while we are all “weird” in our own ways, NO ONE is truly weird. We are all uniquely ourselves, but some of us have a harder time hiding it than others. My goal is to help more people feel like they don’t have to hide their “weird” any longer, but instead to embrace it.
Stay tuned and be sure to join the Badass Creatives email club or Facebook group to get notified when the Kickstarter launches. In the mean time, I’d love to know… what does “embrace your weird” mean to you? Reach out and let me know!
P.S. A HUGE thank you to Kelsey Campion of Marrow Creative for taking almost all of the photos seen here, except for the group photo from our dinner at Jack Rose.