When lifestyle publisher Cynthia Sassi created Fabulous Arizona, she staked out a territory as big as the state. She says, “Some people focus just on food or fashion. We cover all aspects of Arizona, like a magazine.” That’s her background after all — national and local magazines. She likes that versatility. She likes being able to use it to support local businesses. And she likes that advertisers are willing to support her efforts.
But she cautions, you can’t help everybody. “At some point you have to start saying no, and that was a game changer for me.” And that’s allowed her to make money and still feature, as she says, “everything fabulous!”
Rise Grind Repeat Podcast
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| Rise Grind Repeat 087 |
You know, taking that leap into self employment, like you’re just never gonna feel ready. And kind of the way things fell I kind of got forced into doing it. I think before I felt like I was ready, but I don’t know if I ever would have been able to pull the trigger on my own.
Or, you know, because I was just like, it’s scary. So it kind of just was a sink or swim moment of Okay, now I’ve got to figure out how to pay my bills.
On today’s episode of Rise, Grind, Repeat, we talked to Cynthia from Fabulous Arizona, to talk about her marketing career and how her company highlights how fabulous Arizona, let’s dive right in. So before we get too far into Fabulous Arizona, I’d love to hear more about the marketing agency would love to learn more about you? How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
What kind of feel like since I was younger, I knew at some point I was gonna, like own my own business. And so in high school, I was manager for a dairy queen. And I noticed like, even at like 17-18 years old, I was already looking at like the p&l and like, Oh, this lid costs more than this lid, like, we have to make sure we’re using the right lids and you know, just kind of looking at things that like, the average person may not, you know, really think about and so it was already kind of, you know, having those naturally those thoughts of like entrepreneurship. And so I kind of knew, like someday I wanted to own my own business, but just had no idea. Like, at that time, of course, I thought I was gonna own a Dairy Queen someday. Funny how things change. But yeah, so I went to school for marketing at ASU actually originally went for business management, but was kind of like this is too broad. And after taking, like my psychology and sociology, undergrad courses, I was like, really fascinated with that stuff. But I was like, how do I incorporate that in business and marketing kind of does that with the consumer behavior aspect of it. So that kind of married those two passions together of the business and the psychology and kind of got my foot in the door, with internet marketing. My senior year, last semester, I had to do like an internship. And so I got an internship with this company called sheknows.com. And they were kind of like very much in startup phase at that point. And this is back in 2007. This is like, MySpace days, like before Instagram existed, you know, that sort of thing you couldn’t buy, you know, Facebook had just started a few years prior to that, but you could, you know, business pages and ads, yeah, it was only it was still you have an edu email address to get on there. And that sort of thing. So. So the whole internet marketing thing was still really new when I got into it, which was great. So kind of dating myself, but um, like, I’ve got quite a few years now in the industry. And I really loved the online publishing aspect of digital marketing have been able to, you know, the analytics that you can gather, as opposed to like print advertising or something, you know, you get to see, like, how many people are viewing each article, like, what are people interested in? And which ads are they clicking on? And so that stuff was, was really fascinating to me. And, you know, what I thought was just an internship to, you know, get some class credit ended up being, you know, I found my passion. And so I kind of went from there. And here we are,
speaking my language, I love the data analytics. I’m a huge analytics nerd. And I mean, knowing that you have an agency, I mean, it isn’t an amazing how many people spend so much money on on, I mean, traditional still has its value, but how many people undervalue the digital side when it’s like, there’s so much opportunity and identifying the people who are engaging with your content, the ability to then retarget them and continue that messaging? I mean, yeah,
it’s amazing what you can do. Yeah. And that’s the thing is like, with a print ad, I mean, yeah, maybe you can get a few phone calls from somebody saying, Oh, I saw you in this magazine. But it’s really hard to really track like, you know, how those are performing as opposed to a digital. You can see how many people clicked on it. And you know, how many people viewed it and what how much reach it got. It’s just it’s, it’s a lot more trackable. And like you said, with retargeting and stuff in it, you know, can be really, the ROI can be a lot higher.
Yep. Love it. I mean, just make better business decisions. So, I mean, you weren’t a Dairy Queen, you started looking at piano, I was very young. I mean, what does the next steps look like? I mean, when did you start your own kind of endeavor to where it was like, Alright, I’m doing I’m doing my own thing.
Yeah. So I, you know, was running I was, I, well, I had a few different jobs, you know, prior to going self employed. And what I found is like, the ones that I really thrived in were startups where I could kind of have my hands and everything, and you know, really just kind of learn and grow and, and just, you know, really not being told, like, oh, you’re in this box over here. And this is your department, like really being able to get my hands on everything in the business. Whereas the jobs that I didn’t do well in were some corporate positions where you were very siloed. And I’d be like, Well, what about this thing over here? And they’re like, that’s not your department. You can’t talk about that. So So I realized very quickly, I didn’t last more than like three to six months in any corporate job I’ve ever had. I just was like, miserable so. So I realized that I was like, okay, definitely start up or you know, my own company or something. And then just things kind of, you know, I was working for a local magazine, running all their digital, and I kind of was like running all of it by myself. Like I literally was handling all of the editorial for the digital side, all the ads, the web development, I mean, literally everything. So I was like, why am I not doing this for myself? So, so then I went and launched Fabulous Arizona. And at first it was kind of just like a, you know, little side hobby thing. But then it was like I, you know, in my head, I knew what it could be, especially because of my background in digital and seeing, you know, the other larger national magazines that I had, like digital magazines that I’d worked for, seen how they could grow and what they could sell for, and the amount of money they could make. I was like, this really does have a lot of potential. But how do I get there when I have no capital, so that was kind of my struggle in the beginning of just like, trying to organically grow it with no money. So because I was working, like, you know, just temp jobs and stuff like that, and just trying to like, make it you know, pay and pay rent. me Yeah, and then doing this on the side. So it was really difficult to grow it when it was just a side gig. So thankfully, got a position with an online magazine in Chicago that let me work from home here. So they were like, as long as your works getting done, we don’t really care what hours you do it. So it gave me a lot of flexibility to be able to like take coffee meetings and go to events and stuff like that for Fabulous Arizona, while you know, still having this full time job. You know, that was very flexible. So that was kind of the the turning point for me when I was able to put a little more time in Fabulous Arizona, and then it finally kind of just hit that point that it was like, Okay, I can’t do both anymore. But it was you know, taking that leap into self employment, like you’re just never gonna feel ready. And kind of the way things fell, I kind of got forced into doing it. I think before I felt like I was ready, but I don’t know if I ever would have been able to pull the trigger on my own. Or, you know, because I was just like, it’s scary. So it kind of just was a sink or swim moment of, Okay, now I’ve got to figure out how to pay my bills. And, you know, the Sassi pups need a roof over their head and all of that. So, so yeah, so I just kind of like hit the ground, running. And Alright, let’s figure this out. So. So that was kind of the start of so I went full time self employed, I think it was 2015. Yeah, 2015 was when I went full time, self employed, and so on. And so at that point, I had already been running filters on it for about five years, as a side hustle. So, so a lot of times I meet people now that they see where I’m at and think that like, you know, especially because Instagrams, you know, I feel like people really, in the last few years gotten really an Instagram. And they think that like this kind of happened overnight. And you know, people that I meet more recently, and I’m like, this has been a decade in the making. So yeah, it’s been a lot of hard work and, you know, and many, many years
No, there’s so much to unpack there. I mean, I love the building, and organically bootstrapping and figuring out love to touch on that. But before that, I mean, I have listeners on there’s so much on there. I mean, I’ve seen real estate, I say there’s a lot of content about what’s all Fabulous about Arizona. Really what what is it? I guess how, what is the business model there?
Well, so it’s the ideas lifestyle, so you know, covering all aspects of Arizona, I mean, you see a lot of people that focus just on food or just on fashion. But you know, for me, it was like, I want to cover everything like a magazine, because my background was in, you know, the, the national magazines that I worked for, they were the same thing, they covered kind of all all, you know realms. And then same thing with the, you know, the local magazine that I worked for it was we covered everything, so, so I liked the idea of like having that versatility of being able to cover a lot of different things, especially as we’ve seen in the last year with how, you know, different industries are doing well and others aren’t. So if I if my business fully relied on just the hospitality industry, I’d be screwed. Whereas, you know, we have other areas that we can, you know, still grow in that, you know, are still doing well in the economy, like the real estate, you know, sector and even, you know, hospitals and doctors offices and that sort of thing are doing well like telemedicine and, and that sort of thing. So, you know, thankfully, because we are so broad, we are able to, you know, pivot easier than maybe someone that’s more, you know, locked in on one area. So, yeah, so you kind of cover everything, obviously, you know, the way we make money is advertisers just like, you know, an magazine one. So, yes, I mean, obviously, the idea is highlighting everything fabulous. We really like to support local, of course, but also you kind of have to like weigh, you know, who has ad dollars too. So, you know, sometimes you have to, you know, promote some of those bigger guys, because, you know, we got to make a living as well.
Yeah. And from a publisher side because I mean, I haven’t been on that side too much. I’m usually running the ads and placing ads on publisher sites. How does that work? So it’s, it’s, I mean, you have ad placements. And I mean, in magazine, it’s here, here’s a one pager, here’s a quarter sheet, I mean, how does that work from a digital perspective?
So that’s the thing is people all the time, they just want me to like hand them like, you know, like a rate card like you would for a magazine. And I like to say what are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish? What is your business and then work backwards from there? Because I really like to put together packages that are going to actually convert like that are going to work for them. Because I don’t feel like a one size fits all is the answer. And especially with digital, you have that ability to really customize and, you know, tweak things and really make them you know, and obviously, I’ve been in this long enough, I’m like, I know what works, what doesn’t, so I can make recommendations based on that. So I like to put together packages that way, we include a lot of native native advertising. So, you know, banner ads, we don’t really sell too much, because it’s just not, you know, we’ve kind of so 2005
Yes, exactly. You know, that was kind of all the rage, I feel like 2005 2010, you know, especially in the space that I was in at that time, I mean, banner ads were that was what everybody was doing. You know, now, people just aren’t as interested in that. It’s also really difficult desktop to mobile, for banner ads, because, you know, we can run certain banner ads on desktop for them, but like, how are those going to convert to mobile for them, now we have to, you know, figure out how that works. So I just feel like the banner ads, especially on a local level are not of interest. Maybe if we have some, if someone is looking for brand awareness, and they like want to do maybe a takeover, that would be that would do well, but if somebody’s looking for, like, I wants me to click to my website and go buy this thing, or clicks my website, make an appointment, banner ads probably aren’t going to do it, it’s kind of more of a brand awareness tool. Whereas we like to, you know, do like social media posts, you know, content that could be, you know, valuable to the readers, but also, you know, gonna benefit the advertiser as well, special offers for our readers, that sort of thing. And then, of course, we have our weekly newsletter, which is probably the most valuable tool that we have to sell, because everyone that’s signed up for that they’re, you know, highly engaged, they have chosen to be on that list. And they, you know, especially our weekly newsletter, people look forward to that every week to see, you know, we feature new restaurants and upcoming events. And so people have to use that as kind of like their tools, like, Where am I going to eat this weekend and stuff like that? So. So that’s been the newsletter has been one of our best marketing tools.
That’s awesome. No, I mean, it’s, it’s essentially, where’s the attention at? I mean, you got the newsletter, that’s where attention is, you got eyeballs, it’s more valuable real estate. One thing that I get a lot is I mean, banner ads native, it’s the people say, Oh, it’s just the sponsor stories at the bottom, what native ads are, but in terms of how you’re hitting the right people, you talked about ROI, or super ROI focused? How from a publishing side, how do you ensure that that brand reaches the right user, whether it’s that demographic and whatnot?
Well, and that’s why like, you know, we’ve looked at all our demographics, and we kind of have honed in on who we want to be reaching. And so we create our content based around that. So honestly, if an advertiser comes to me, and even if they want to give me all this money, if it’s not the right fit, I will tell them no, because the last thing I want is someone to spend money with me. And they’re not reaching the right people, and they don’t get a return. It’s also a disservice to my readers, if they’re like, why are you you know, advertising this to me when it’s completely irrelevant? So, so that’s another reason why I will have to sit there and you know, okay, what are your goals? Who are you trying to reach? Is this the right fit before? All that somebody advertise with us in that way?
No, totally. It totally makes sense. Totally in the weeds right there. But I want to kind of get back to the business side. I mean, I love that you mentioned, you know, as a side hustle, you grew it, you kind of jumped into the fire. What are the things that you were doing to grow organically? Cuz A lot of people think, oh, if I just had the capital I could grow. But I mean, it’s obviously a little bit quicker. But there’s a lot of opportunities and growing organically without huge, huge budgets and and huge advertising budgets and whatnot. So what are some of the things that you did where it was like, Alright, once I started doing more of this started growing and got you closer to being able to make that leap of faith?
Well, I’ll give you two things that are just very for any kind of business, regardless of you know, who you are, or whatever. And then I can give you a one example for specifically for what you know, for digital, or if you’re like a blogger, or a publisher or something. But the one one of the biggest things I did was literally just going out and networking and talking to everybody and making sure that they knew what fabulous or someone it was. And, you know, that was one of the things where people think I was a really outgoing person, and I actually wasn’t, and now I am because I’m like, I’ve forced myself into it. But when I first started out, you know, this was 2011. And I was, you know, I would show up to these events with a handful of business cards and be like, I don’t know anybody in this room. But I’m just gonna go up to people and just start talking to them, make sure they know what Fabulous Arizona is, and just spreading the word that way. And so I would be to three different events every night of the week, like just trying to get the word out and making sure people knew who we were. And that’s kind of how I also actually built my personal brand, which was never part of the intention. But people were like Cynthia’s everywhere. She knows everything going on in town. So then I kind of built this personal brand as well by default. So literally just getting yourself out there. And I have so many people that they come up to me and they’re like, I don’t have the confidence. I could never do that. I’m so nervous talking to people. And I’m like, I would be sick to my stomach dreaming of these buttons, like literally wanting to throw up. And then by the time you get in there and you talk to people like yeah, I mean, sometimes it’s not the most comfortable and but more often than not people were very receptive, they were nice, I’d walk out feeling like a million times better. So, but the the scariness of walking into those events didn’t go away for quite a while. And that’s normal. And I think people need to kind of embrace that. And, you know, get comfortable being uncomfortable, I think is a great, great way to put it. So that was one thing. And then the other thing is, collaborations. So teaming up with other people, I think too many people look at it as competition. And I’m all about collaboration over competition, and there’s strength in numbers, and there’s room for everybody. So I think by me teaming up with other, you know, businesses or other, you know, I even like would cross promote with different magazines in town and stuff like that, you know, to kind of help get the name out for Fabulous Arizona, so. So I think people definitely need to look at that in terms of like teaming up with other people, as opposed to feeling like, oh, they’re competition and siloing themselves. There’s just so much strength in numbers.
Yeah, no, I love that. It’s funny, because we, we love that that little hashtag community over competition. There’s, I mean, it’s just it’s abundance over scarcity. And I mean, it’s really mindset. Love that. And I mean, knowing that networking, I mean, leads to collaborations as well. You know, we’ve had quite the year of 2020, and hearing you network a whole lot. So I mean, knowing that that’s how you kind of got started, how have you kind of transitioned to what you’re doing now? And how have you kind of adjusted with 2020? Or how have you had to adjust?
Well, I mean, obviously 2020 has actually been a good year for me in the sense. I mean, obviously, we it was bad, because, you know, hotels, restaurants and whatnot are not doing well. And that’s, you know, one of our the biggest things we promote on the website, but also, I’m digital. And so it’s just kind of like that’s where everybody is everybody’s on social, everybody’s on, you know, online, and even more. So for the, you know, the agency side, because we are a digital agency, people were like, We need help now more than ever, like, we weren’t really taking that seriously before, and now we have to be online. So quickly, going back to the networking aspect of it. Social media, I mean, you’ve got all everyone you could possibly want at your fingertips on social media. So you know, being active on social media, and even if that’s just, you know, commenting on people’s stuff, and engaging and, you know, keeping yourself top of mind for people. That’s one of the big things that I try to do. I feel like I’ve been so busy lately, I’m probably not as good as I used to be about, you know, documenting my days, but just, you know, I’m posting so often that people, like, if everybody knows what I do, there’s no question like, no question about that. So. So when people come when it comes to a time that somebody might need a service that I offer, I come top of mind, because I’m always in their face, like they can’t forget about me. So I think doing that and so I kind of use like social media is like, you no way to, I mean, I really use LinkedIn as often honestly, I’d rather use like Facebook and Instagram, because I can then like if I go have, you know, go to an event and meet some people or something, and I connect with them there. I can see like, Oh, they just wanted this vacation, or they just got this new dog or whatever. And so when I send them a message, I also always include some kind of personal, you know, thing that I can pull from, from their social media, like, Oh, it looks like you just had a really great trip in Hawaii, I hope you had a blast, did it and then there’s my pitch, but they’re gonna feel more inclined to respond if I’ve included some kind of personal note in there. So that I find is a really helpful tool to use social media for, but also just, you know, going in and like commenting on people’s stuff, being supportive, being positive, and like, they’re, you know, it’s going to keep people again, and keep you top of mind when you’re commenting on people’s things. And like, you know, someone did something great. And you’re like, oh, congratulations, that’s awesome, you know, constantly doing those kinds of things. And making sure you’re connecting with with those people online is a great way to network in this time when we can’t be doing these networking events in person and stuff like that.
Yeah, no, I absolutely love it. And that being said, I mean, I’m hearing positivity community over competition. I mean, how it sounds, it sounds like you’re a super positive and optimistic type of person. I mean, how much has mindset positivity? optimism all played in kind of the growth of your personal brand, Fabulous Arizona and the agency.
Huge. Because, I mean, not everything has been roses for me. I mean, there have been times that have been so hard. And you know, I’ve been at rock bottom, you know, in, in the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, as I’m sure you know, I mean, there’s, there’s times that you’re like, what the heck am I doing? Like, I should give up? I mean, even my family at one point was like, like, please go get a job, like, like no more that’s like, you need health insurance and all these other things and benefits and you know, and I was just like, No, I’m gonna make this happen. And so, so mindsets huge, I do. One of my favorite little tips and tricks and tools, I guess, if you will, is a gratitude journal. And so, you know, you write down three things each day and I usually do before I go to bed, some people like to do it to start their day. But I kind of feel like sometimes I need it more at night than I do. Like I kind of am naturally a morning person. So I wake up kind of in a good mood regardless, because I kind of feel like opportunities, you know for the day but then by the end of the day, Maybe like today to not go like how I wanted, I really need this right now. So I like to do it before I go to bed writing down, you know, three things that I’m grateful for. And some days, I might literally be just the fact that I have a roof over my head, and that’s okay. And so you know, those kind of just, you know, being grateful for for the littlest things, some days is something and, and so I actually did this program a few years back. And it was a really, it was like a 30 day program, and it’s called the human compass. And each week has kind of a theme. And then by each day, it kind of narrows it down, more specific. So for example, one of the weeks the theme was kind of where you live. And so the first day, it’s kind of like, we’re not a third world country. So it starts out really broad, you know, and then it narrows it all the way down to your home. And so like, I’m, you know, lucky that I have a home that I, you know, feel comfortable in and I’m happy and whatever, you know, so it just narrows it down. And it starts, you know, in the morning, when you wake up, it’ll do, you can either choose audio, or you can read a little article thing in the morning to start your day. And then it’ll kind of like just send you little reminders throughout the day, to kind of realign your thinking. And to go through that every single day for 30 days was like a real shift in like mindset of and I and I took that at a time that like I think was about a year into my self employment. And it was really hard. And I was just not necessarily in a good place at that point. And really struggling with it. And I felt like it just having that mind shift set. mind set shift. Tongue twister there, you know, really helped me both personally and in my business to just really, you know, be thinking in a more positive mindset.
Yeah, no, I mean, everyone, pretty much everyone in here played sports. And it’s just, we’re just huge on on the mindset and I mean, mental toughness and, and whatnot. I mean, it’s amazing. And I love the psychology part that you mentioned, I love this, like, I love psychology, this huge reason why I like the content side and the distribution getting around it. But I mean, you even get down to when you’re deciding when to be grateful, knowing how that’s gonna impact your day, you know, your routine. I mean, I think the biggest struggle for small business owners and and just entrepreneurs is struggling to find how to prioritize time. How have you been able to do that? I mean, it sounds like you do a great job, you know, exactly when, when to do the right thing? And how have you kind of learned how to do that.
That was tough. I mean, I when I first started out, I definitely wasn’t that was one of the things I struggled with was prioritizing, because it felt like everything was a priority. So like, how do you like figure out like, what gets done first. So I used to have like to do lists that were like 20 things long. And I was just like, so overwhelmed. And I actually got this planner. And it’s just it’s so silly. I mean, it’s like a $60 planner. So it’s like, you could probably do this with any cheaper planner or a piece of paper. But there was something about the fact that it was like a pretty planner that but it had you pull out the top three things of the day that had to get done. So I would even though I’d have 20 things on my list, it kind of like having that spot that’s like Here are the top three, like it kind of forced me to, like, make that prioritization of like, Okay, what are the three things that have to be done today, even if I don’t get to everything else in the list, this is what has to be done. So I think just taking that time in the morning, to pull out like what, what has to be done today, and what would not be the end of the world if it waits till tomorrow, you know, I think is doing that because I remember when I first went self employed, I would stay up all night trying to finish everything on my to do list every day. And it was just maddening. And it was like I was less productive because I was getting less sleep. And I was you know not feeling as well and again starts to affect your mental health if you’re not sleeping well enough. And, and so, so I think making like really forcing yourself to prioritize, and that that being part of your morning routine, and I think is self employed people, especially when you’re working from home, whereas I know even non self employed people are working from home right now. I think morning routines really critical in like getting yourself in the right mindset and setting yourself up for a successful day. So I do my walk with the dogs in the morning to kind of like clear my head and get a little exercise and then I sit down and you know, take a look at my list and prioritize before I start anything.
How are you at saying no?
I used to be horrible at it horrible.
What was the thing that made you go from horrible to get out? Because it sounds I mean, you’ve learned how to master that. I think part of that is figuring out I mean, being able to say no helps you prioritize your time a bit more?
Well, I started realizing like, I am not making the money that I could because I’m spending too much time on things I should be saying no to. And I think it was kind of that realization of like hitting that burnout point of just doing too much. And especially when you’re someone like you know, I’m a very empathetic person and I want to help everybody and you know, running a local I mean, the the passion behind fiber Arizona is I love supporting small local businesses. And so it’s like, I want to help everybody. And so when people come to me and they’re like, Oh, you know, I have this little business and they want help but you know, you just want to help everybody but at some point like you have you can’t you can’t do it all yourself. So yeah, exactly. And so I started realizing like, you know, at some point you have to say no so I actually every year I’m not a big New Year’s resolutions person. I think that you know Shouldn’t I don’t think the new year really means anything like yeah, like you should take every day to like, you know, resolve to be a better person, I guess. But I like to pick a word for the year to kind of focus and intention on most. And so it’s funny that you say that because three years ago, my word was no, was my word was no for the year because I was like, I have spread myself way too thin. And I really have to start getting more focused, if I want to, and just, you know, because you do as an entrepreneur, so many different opportunities come to you. And it’s easy to get unfocused, and in too many different directions to where nothing’s working, because you’re, you’re too all over the place. And so, you know, really kind of being able to say, Okay, this is what I want to focus on. And I need to start saying no to all these other things. And kind of also sitting down and, and looking at the year prior in terms of like, what made money and what didn’t, and let’s start cutting out these other things. One of those things that I cut out was I was hosting a lot of events. And at the time, it was like, Oh, I’m making X amount for this one event. So in a, you know, and it looked like a larger amount. But when you started looking at how many hours did I have to put into that event? It worked out two pennies per hour. So it was like, Okay, this, you know, that look at being able to look back at those things and realizing like, what is the actual like, you know, ROI on some of these things, and cutting those things out, I think is really important. And to make that assessment, I like to make that assessment, like once a year, but some people you know, it may make more sense to do it quarterly or something. But yes, that was a big thing was kind of saying, Okay, what can I start saying no to? And it was it was kind of a game changer for me.
I mean, what I was, I was just about to ask, I mean, how did that change your life? Just from like, a personal emotional side? things? And then also, how did the business change after you started learning how to say now and then has it gotten almost kind of addicting knowing, hey, I can own my own day. And yeah, I can make I can work on the things I want to do that I know is actually going to impact more the people I want to impact, which is a small business.
Yeah. Well, I think just one kind of understanding that like, I don’t have to feel guilty for saying no, that was probably the biggest hurdle to overcome. You know, everybody wants to go get coffee. And I’m just like, I could have 50 Coffee meetings a day, if I said yes to everybody. So, so I started really cutting back like, I think it’s Mark Cuban, he was like, unless somebody is writing a check, you’re not taking an in person meeting, I think he said something along those lines. And so I started trying to use that as a rule of thumb. And so if I always do like, if someone reaches out to me, wanting to potentially work with me in some capacity, which, whichever business it is, I will start with a phone call a 15-30 minute phone call, depending on what it is to even see if it’s a viable option, as opposed to wasting my time going to a coffee meeting, cause even if you go for a coffee meeting, not only are you wasting the time driving them back, but then typically the meeting is over an hour long as opposed to like, if you’re on the phone, you can get it done in probably 20 minutes. And without the driving. So it just it’s a much more efficient way. So that way it can weed out like is this even an option should we even be working together, then if it is, then we can move on to like an in person meeting. So that’s actually one of the things that I’ve loved so much about 2020 is that things have gotten so virtual with meetings. And so I think that’s something that needs to stay. And I you know, I’ve been a that’s kind of made it easier, obviously, this year to, you know, kind of force, the, the phone calls and the you know, Zooms and that sort of thing. But, you know, I think shifting to that doing, you know, phone calls, first make sure it’s a good fit. And then, you know, just finding polite ways to tell people that is just not a good fit, or, you know, I’m sorry, I just don’t have the bandwidth for that right now, or my focus is over here. This doesn’t align with what I’m focusing on. That was kind of the challenge of figuring out how to word it in a way that like, you know, they could understand, but I didn’t have to feel bad about it.
Yeah, no, good. That’s always the hardest part is I mean, no one, you’re in business to make people happy and serve a certain demographic, whatever it may be. And, you know, saying no, typically doesn’t make people happy. And it’s just tough. It’s tough. I mean, you’ve gone through quite a bit of ups. You know, I’ve had some learning experiences, but I mean, through, you know, starting bolt businesses, I mean, what’s been the biggest kind of not so much hurdle, but aha moment that you kind of struggled with? And what was it like to kind of overcome that?
I would have to say many, like, yeah, like, there’s so many, probably like asking for help, or like getting help, you know, like, an understanding like, what your strengths are, and filling in the people around you that, you know, fill in those holes that you know, that you’re maybe not so good at. So I hired a Fabulous Arizona, I mean, I’ve had, you know, some freelance writers and that sort of thing. But it was primarily me for the last decade. And I’ve always been so scared because that was my baby. And I was so proud. I’m very, very picky about like, everything photos, content, spacing, like formatting, and like I’m just very anal about every little thing on the website and the social media and all that. And so I was really scared to bring somebody on because I was like, uh, you know, I’ve been doing this for 10 years, like how can I take 10 years of, you know what I’ve put into this and make someone else understand that. And, you know, so I hired Melissa, who’s our editor in chief in July. And she was the editor in chief actually for over a decade. Arizona Foothills Magazine. So, so I saw she left there. And I was like, so are you looking to do anything else now, and I knew her from, you know, from, you know, it’s like, 2008. So I’ve known her a long time. And I know, she’s, you know, fantastic person well liked in the community. You know, obviously, I would see her at different, you know, media events, because we’d get invited to some of the same stuff. And, and so I’m like, I know, she knows her stuff. She’s, you know, very well liked. But I also I just didn’t know, like, what was this gonna look like working with her? And, you know, at first I kind of was like, worried Am I gonna be hovering over her is it gonna be extra work for me to be like, double checking everything she’s doing. And because I’ve brought the right person in, it ended up being something where I am, like, she’s doing this 10,000 times better than I could, like, I would go on the website, and she would just have put stuff up that I didn’t even know about. And I would just be like, Wow, this looks amazing. Like, and if she did it, you know, again, better than I would have done. So I think understanding because I’ve tried to bring people on prior that it was, you know, teaching, it was more just so moreso teaching them, as opposed to them filling that void that I you know, filling the holes where I’m maybe not so good, or my you know, my weaker areas. So instead of me just showing them what I’m doing, as opposed to bringing in somebody that can bring something new to the table. So I think that’s probably a little combination of like ego and you know, kind of letting that stuff go of like the control the ego, that sort of thing of letting that go and letting someone else that really knows what they’re doing step in and kind of make it better.
Yeah. And again, I mean, how’s that done? On the personal emotional side in the business? Because that’s something a lot of a lot of great entrepreneurs get get healthy growth, but then kind of hit that ceiling? And it’s, it’s kind of the was my baby, I don’t I don’t want to give it up. And and everything’s been 100% perfect. But it’s tough to kind of scale at that point. I mean, but finding that balance, I mean, what are the impacts after you were able to kind of delegate let people run, get that trust?
to focus on the things I’m stronger I like, you know, I’m really, I’m really strong with the sales. And I mean, obviously, like, my baby, nobody can sell better than I can, you know, so the sales and the marketing side, I’ve been able to take a stronger focus on. And also we are now expanding to their states. So I’ve been able to focus on you know, I couldn’t have I mean, right now, we have five states live, and she’s managing all of the writers and all the different states, all of the editorial on all the websites, there’s absolutely no way I could have done that without her help. So understanding that, like I couldn’t have grown without bringing her on was kind of the, you know, the big aha moment. So like, that’s what I was saying, kind of like in order to grow, like, I was never gonna grow if I wouldn’t have started building my team. But again, it’s about finding the right people. Yeah,
yeah. No, you’re able to grow that baby into a toddler and then a teenager into it to an adult. I mean, it’s your baby at too much and stays a baby forever. I mean, which is perfectly fine. If that’s,
yeah. And if that’s what makes you happy, and you Your goal is just to like, you know, have because I mean, honestly, it’s easier being a one person team than managing people. So if you’re happy with like, Okay, I’m making this amount of money per year, and I’m happy with that. And I’m doing something that I love, and that that works for you, then that’s great. But, you know, from day one, I’ve always had this vision of fabulous Arizona have been something so much bigger. And so you know, that was that was always the plan. And it took me almost 10 years to make that move to expand it. But But again, it was one of those things where I kept having every excuse of like, I’m not ready to expand, I’m not ready to you know, grow. And it was just like, what, what point Am I going to be ready, and you’re not. So you just have to kind of like, take take the leap and figure it out?
Yeah, no, it sounds like things are rocking and rolling. And I have seen I think it was what Fabulous Wisconsin that
Wisconsin? And so everyone’s like, why Wisconsin, and I’m originally from there. Yeah, so I was like, that was an easy one to just kind of like that was my first one that I launched. And I remember I had every excuse in the book not to do it. It’s sat for a year before I actually launched it. Like I had the website ready. I had the social media ready, but I just wasn’t doing anything with it. And one of my friends and mentors Alenka she was like, just do it and just like it started like, it doesn’t matter if you have all the answers. Yeah, cuz I kept thinking I had to have everything figured out before I launched it. So Wisconsin made sense because I could just go up there crashed with family because I you know, I still have all my aunts, uncles, and cousins still have it there. And just kind of figure it out. And once I got up there, it was just the response was amazing. Like, people were so excited because there’s just such a lack of something like that up there. And so businesses were so super excited to work with me. I had several you know, writers reached out to me that just found us on Instagram and we’re like, how can I get involved? So, so that kind of let me see like okay, there there is a you know, market for this and other states. And so once I launched that a couple girls in two different cities randomly that didn’t, they don’t even know each other. They both reached out to me. Within a month of me launching Fabulous Wisconsin asked me to launch Fabulous Iowa. So Iowa came next and I know kind of like random states. What’s so fabulous about Iowa and Wisconsin, but that’s it’s been kind of fun about launching these new ones is finding these hidden gems in each state, you know, really cool, especially like some of these other states that have so much more history than, you know Arizona does is there’s some really cool, like historic, you know, things that have a lot of great stories behind them. And so we also have Washington in California live now, too. That’s cool.
That was I mean, everyone’s done stuff on New York, Chicago, I mean, big places. I mean, the I mean, there’s not too many people that are just yeah, it’s
filling a void, for sure. And you know, and I was a little nervous about doing California, just because one, there’s, you know, so many magazines and bloggers out there. And it’s a massive state, obviously. So it’s kind of like, where do you do we have to break it up? We don’t really know. Yeah. And so I was holding off on launching that. But we, there’s so much crossover in Arizona, so I have so many, you know, PR people and businesses that I work with that they have locations or clients in California that are like, let’s go like, Listen, let us know. And so I’m like, well, the opportunity is there. So I’ve got a, you know, run with it. And, you know, we still haven’t quite figured out how we’re going to run right now we’re just running everything under the same categories. But at some point, we might break them up into like, you know, regions, just because California is so large, you know, maybe even if it’s just northern and southern, but again, trying to just figure it out as we go, we don’t have all the answers. And that’s okay. And I think, you know, a lot of people get hung up on having to have everything figured out. And quite frankly, even if you have it all figured out, once you start going, things are gonna change, and you’re gonna have to change. And I think if you have too rigid of a plan in place, you actually might fail, because you’re not going to be fluent enough to make those pivots and adjustments as you need to.
Because I mean, if you’re not hitting those marks, and it’s like, well, in real time, you should be going a little to the right. And it’s like, well, no, it says they’re supposed to the left, you might get discouraged that it’s not really happening and being able to pivot in real time. I mean, it just helps with your own internal expectations. And I think everything, business is a living, breathing thing. I think, to your point, it’s, I mean, it’s amazing. I mean, especially working on the creative side, it’s it’s a lot of people want that we need to be 100% perfect before we get to market, but it’s like, okay, we spent all that time, by the time we get to market, the data shows us that we’re way off, and now we need to adjust and find that healthy balance. Yeah, yeah. And you guys are working on a lot. I mean, you’re expanding, what are some of the kind of your personal and business goals over the next three to six months, kind of keep it on the short term?
So we we launched? You know, we only have the two, we had Wisconsin and Arizona. And then once you know, I brought Melissa on, we launched the other three in the last six months. And, you know, it was kind of like, okay, let’s take a step back. Because I didn’t know like, are we gonna launch one per month or one per quarter? What is that gonna look like, and we kind of, we launched all three within a couple months. And it was like, okay, we need to pump the brakes a little bit here and like, get things more, you know, more streamline and make these ones really tight and have our systems down and our processes down on these ones. And then so we’re, you know, taking first quarter here, we’ve decided we’re gonna just focus on those five for the first quarter and really get those, you know, nailed down, obviously, you know, COVID has definitely inhibited a lot of these other states, Arizona obviously has continued to stay open and do well. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing for COVID purposes, but, but it’s been, you know, from a business perspective, it’s been good, because we’ve been able to, you know, maintain advertisers and content, whereas, you know, with these other states, like Washington, for example, they there’s no indoor dining at all whatsoever. So you know, we’re trying to figure out like, okay, and especially because, you know, me and Melissa and our managing editor, Kylie, like we don’t live in, you know, we live here. So we are trying to stay on top of like, all these different regulations, and all these different states. And it’s been really challenging to try and like stay on top of like, what’s open where, and what can we cover and, you know, is even feasible to try and get advertising dollars from some of these other states, when there’s their economies are just not doing like, as well as ours is. So that’s kind of also, you know, inhibited the growth a little bit. And, you know, makes me want to pause a little bit and kind of see how this first quarter shakes out before we make our next move, because I haven’t even decided, I have an idea of which states I want to do next. But I’m like, I kind of want to see where things are gonna go over the next few months before we make that decision. Because, you know, maybe we want to go with a more conservative state or something, you know, if that’s gonna affect, you know, what we can cover and that sort of thing and the growth so, so the plan is to continue to obviously grow and really solidify the five states we already have. And then hopefully, I’m thinking one state per quarter for the rest of the year, once we, you know, get through the first quarter, maybe one one state per quarter throughout the year. And then I also have, you know, the the marketing agency sales media, and I have a business partner with that one. So, you know, we’ve got some goals there of, you know, where we want to go with that as well in terms of, you know, kind of just, we’re at a point where we’ve got a good base of clients, but we want to start you know, saying who do we really want as clients cuz we’ve had some that are we, you know, you get those clients that you’re like, you know, when you’re starting out and you’re like, well, it’s money. Well, you sssss you say yes to everybody. And then it’s like, we’re now in a position where it’s like, okay, we can be picky about, you know, who we want to take on. So we want to like, because most of my most of my clients, cuz I mean, before I did this agency, I was kind of just freelancing, some, you know, marketing stuff for for different businesses, just because doing fiber, Arizona, obviously, I meet a lot of business owners that need digital help. So, you know, I, I kind of wanted to eat, I would get people just coming to me, and as opposed to like, prospecting, who do I want to work with. So our goal for this year is to kind of really sit down and say, like, Who are the people, the businesses we really want to work with, and maybe it’s something that we’re passionate about, or, you know, are the type of clients so I actually have clients in all different industries. So it’s kind of more so that the business owner that I kind of choose, like, who I want to work with, based on that, because, you know, if they’re passionate, and you know, and kind of, we’re on the same page, in terms of, you know, what direction they want to go. That’s kind of where I like to decide if it’s a good fit or not,
no, that’s awesome. And from the agency side, I mean, what what do you guys do there?
So we’re full service. So we have I mean, you know, my strong suit is obviously just the social media digital side. But you know, my business partner is more of the creative, so, you know, videography, photography, copywriting, that sort of thing. And then we have, you know, our team of people that do web development and, and like PR and stuff like that. So we really can offer everything. But you know, we’re really passionate about kind of a more cohesive brand, look and feel for people, I feel like a lot of times, that’s the piece that a lot of people are missing is they’re kind of, they don’t have a brand identity, they’re kind of all over the place. And it’s just like, what are you selling? It’s just it’s too, like, you know, and so really honing in on what, what is their message? Who is their demographic, because, you know, you’ll, as you know, you sit down with clients, and a lot of times, they’ll be like, everybody’s my customer. And it’s like, No, they’re not. So helping them really like, you know, hone in on who is their customer, you know, making that distinction of like, what, what are they what is their messaging? And that’s kind of my favorite part of working with those clients is really, you know, figuring out that, that brand message,
yeah, no, that makes sense. I mean, yeah, there’s so many people say, Yeah, I got a budget to spend, let’s start running ads, let’s start landing people on pages and all that, but it’s like, well, who are you trying to reach? What is your goal? What problems you solve? It’s like, I mean, that being said, there’s a lot of people that struggle with that, I mean, in knowing that you love that, I mean, what are some tips that you have, for people that kind of, they’re growing, but don’t have that their mission, their vision kind of mapped out, and they really
need to sit down. And, you know, there’s, I actually learned this, this is actually an old school marketing thing, the probably one of the only things I actually learned in marketing at school, but that whole idea of like, you create, like, a kind of a persona for your customer. And so you kind of like say, like, this is, you know, this is Joe, and he likes to skateboard on the weekends or whatever, you know, like, you kind of like create this person, that’s your customer in determining, you know, what is the age range? Like, what, you know, what do they like to do, and kind of just understanding who your customer should be. And then also understanding your services and how to, like streamline marketing, that I’ve had a lot of clients that are really all over the place, that that kind of stuff, and they’re trying to, like, offer everything, and it’s like, maybe we need to, like focus in a little more here. You know, I’ve, I feel like I’ve run into that a lot with like, people that are offering like, services that don’t even like go aren’t even in the same realm. Like, it’s just very, it makes it very challenging to market a business when they you know, it’s kind of like, Who are you? What do you do? Yeah. So I think, you know, really honing in on like, Who is your customer, first and foremost, before you even go into, you know, who you are. So figuring out who are you marketing to, and what’s going to appeal to them, and you know, and then going from and then building off of that, I think that’s kind of like the first building block is figuring out who that customer is.
Now, that’s great, because I mean, it’s all I think all this marketing stuff is with the ability to target using data and all that type of stuff, it’s just having a conversation. And if you can sit down and build those avatars, or personas, or whatever they are, it’s you have an identity of who you’re trying to communicate with. And you can actually have a conversation rather than, to me I equated to the interest to too many people just running outside, just yelling to everyone, but it’s like, you’re not having a conversation. And that’s what we need to be doing in today’s digital world is having a conversation and knowing who your audience is, allows you to build a creative build, target all that type of stuff to have that conversation.
Yeah. And also, I mean, you know, with social media, I feel like the other thing with that is, you know, with your messaging is, you know, now that you know who your customer is, what’s gonna be valuable to them because you can’t just sell sell, sell, like, you know, your messaging, when you’re doing social posts and stuff like that, you have to be providing value as well. So like, you know, offering tips or you know, and I feel like something that people forget about a lot as business owners is they forget to put themselves in like your consumer to like, what would I as a consumer want to see why, like me as a consumer, why do I follow the accounts I follow and thinking about it as a consumer, I feel like people forget that kind of stuff. So so I feel like that’s where the easiest way is to just put yourself you know, as I mean, all of us are consumers in some shape or form. So just taking that Step back in saying if I were a consumer, what would I want to see? Why would I follow this account? Why would I visit this business? And taking those things? And you know, implementing them? Yeah, seems very common.
Small fixes are I mean, when take a step back, they, they it’s like, oh, wow, that is pretty common sense. It’s weird how whenever you get in the day to day you kind of get blinders on and lost. And yeah,
no, I love that. I mean, it’s all about value. I mean, like, like you said, Everyone is sale this by this. And it’s, it’s provide value. And that being said, I mean, you you tons of wisdom, you’ve done quite a bit. I mean, for that person that’s starting out as an entrepreneur, even even in the content side of things, if they’re trying to become a publisher. I mean, what what is the biggest piece of advice that you would have for someone is they’re trying to figure out, right, I don’t know what I’m doing, I know that I have a passion for this. How do I how do I keep growing, what’s the biggest piece of advice you’d have for them?
Find, for one, surround yourself with other people that are, you know, kind of in that same mentality of like growing and, you know, wanting to build something, I think, you know, if you’re surrounded by people that are not have that same kind of mindset, it could set you back and, you know, prevent you from, you know, growing, when you surround yourself with people that are doing similar things, or better things than you, which is even better, it’s going to kind of bring you up to that level and keep you in that same mindset. And I also think, like finding mentors that, you know, can help guide you in those kinds of things, and maybe help you get there a little faster than maybe they did, you know, and learn from some of their mistakes and failures, maybe from their past that will help you, you know, move a little a little faster on the process.
Yep. Now, I couldn’t agree more. There’s something that’s literally the last like, six, seven episodes. It’s mentorship. That’s it’s been huge. And I mean, as we kind of wrap up, and there’s so much we’d love to talk about me, and maybe we’d love to do something near the end. And we can go over the growth that you’ve had. But I mean, from the personal branding, to mentorship. I mean, there’s so much I’d love to I’d love to catch up again. Well, I really appreciate it. I appreciate the time. I’m excited to watch the growth. You got your I mean, you’re growing quickly. And it’s it’s great as well, you
say quickly, but I’m like it’s like overnight, overnight success took 10 years. Yeah, but it’s but it’s definitely on a trajectory right now, which we’re excited about. Yeah,
yeah. Well, I can’t wait to watch the continued growth. And yeah, looking forward to catching up sometime in the future and appreciate the time. Awesome. Thanks. Thank you.
Where To Find Cynthia Sassi
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On the previous episode of RGR, Dustin talked to Alecia Grant of VivaKolor on her career as a fashion and lifestyle influencer. Watch the episode here!