Sunday, July 3, 2022

Female Founders: Lisa K. Stephenson On “How She Started Her First Business”

Quotes

As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa K. Stephenson.

Lisa K. Stephenson is the founder of She’s SINGLE Media. Started with Co-founder Jesse Wilson, the pair have been working together for over 10 years. Lisa is a regular contributor to UpJourney, Westchester Magazine, and About Insider. She’s SINGLE Media, a subsidiary of ASIAS Brands is now home to She’s SINGLE Magazine and CERKIT TV.

With an expert view into all areas of a successful product launch and brand growth marketing experience with She’s SINGLE Magazine, as well as the television show, She’s SINGLE New York, She’s SINGLE Media by ASIAS Brands formerly known as Kombination Kouture Company was launched in 2012.

It’s an honor to speak with you today. I would love to know more about your story and your background. Give us some details about your journey as a digital entrepreneur.

Thank you. My journey to entrepreneurship was anything but accidental. Growing up, I would always quit my jobs or complain about the manager(s). I always felt I could do their job better. I hated that thought of, “I am beneath someone incompetent.” Especially as a creative and always have so many ideas that I knew people would love and gravitate to if only I could get it out there – marketing. 

I started with writing since that is my passion. I was in college taking a creative writing class, and the professor asked us to work on a short story. I wrote a story titled, Niki, and the professor loved it. He loved it so much that he asked if he can use it as an example for his other classes – of course, I said yes. From there I went through a lot. I was in a relationship where I was cheated on and physically assaulted at one point. I decided to write about it. From there I went on tour and met so many wonderful people. But the books alone weren’t working and so I kept diving into other spaces. I did wardrobe styling, started a non-profit, started a clothing line, wrote more books, and eventually, I landed in magazine publishing. Thankfully, I am still here today. 

What do you specialize in and why should someone choose you over your competitors in your field? 

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I don’t see people or other businesses as competitors, more often than not I see them as inspiration. This way of thinking has allowed me to always have my own lane and with that comes a unique way of doing things. If I do what others are doing then I’m competing, if I take what they’ve done and make it better, then I am inspired. That’s why my work in magazine publishing or television production and even now in the paper industry, my work always has its own lane. People want what’s different. Steve Jobs understood this and made the first iPhone. 

I don’t think anyone should choose one over the other. Just because I buy Tide today doesn’t mean I can’t get Gain tomorrow. It’s more about your offerings as a company and what is in demand. If I can meet the demand and have value in my product or service, people will flock to it. 

What’s your piece of advice for readers who want to achieve wealth and success in life?

Wealth and success are subjective. Everyone has their own definition of what that may look like. My advice is to spend a significant amount of time with yourself – no romantic relationship, no distractions – and truly hone in on what it is that makes you happy. Once you have that answer then the next step is to find a way to make a living doing it. But with this, you have to be careful because your passion can become your nightmare. There’s a fine line that you have to identify when is too much, when it is time to walk away, when it is time to switch gears, you’re in control. There is no recipe for success or wealth, it’s a matter of doing.

Is it tough for a woman to survive in this industry? How did you overcome those panic attacks?

Yes. People often speak to me in a condescending tone or they come off aggressive because they think since I am a woman I can be easily intimidated. I find that I have to stand my ground. It’s like people believe that when you’re a woman you’re very indecisive and they see that as a weakness. It has gotten to the point where I have made the conscious decision to remove myself emotionally from things that pertain to my business. If it is illogical then I don’t do it, no matter how I feel about it emotionally. 

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Nothing has been done lol. The government put things in place where they say that women can benefit – business loans for women, grants for minority business women, etc. But what difference does any of that make when we still reside in a male-dominated social system? Even if you give a woman a truckload of money and tell her to build any business of her dreams and she does…she will still be met with disrespect and disregard from males and maybe even subordinates who will constantly question her judgment. And if that isn’t the problem, she’ll be overly sexualized and still, men will feel entitled to her no matter what her position, especially if she’s single.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

I don’t just think that more women should become founders, I think more women should become founders of something substantial. Men dominate certain spaces that I think women should have more of a hand in – basketball teams, office supply companies, technology, men’s wardrobe (how many times do men drag their woman along to go shopping because he values her opinion?) Just stop with the oversaturated spaces: hair, makeup, skincare, cosmetics. We’re more than that.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

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That founders are their own bosses – lol okay, so, in no instance is this ever the case. A founder has to answer to someone especially if they have investors or shareholders or a board. And even if they don’t, we still answer to the customer! I can’t stress that enough. There have been times when I am on vacation and a customer posts a complaint online and if I don’t see a response back to them in like 5 minutes, I get up and answer it. I don’t keep people waiting. Being a founder does not mean you can just get 24 hours of peace and spend your life relaxing on a beach somewhere 355 days of the year while only working 10. 

Starting a business is how you get rich – This too is nonsense. I have started many businesses and failed at every one of them until now. Starting a business is not how you get rich it’s how you get financial confidence. It’s how you go from, “How am I going to feed my family?” to “Oh, I know how to get this money, that’s easy.” I often see this scenario sometimes floating around on social media, “Have dinner with Jay-Z or get $500,000” and people still choose the $500,000, which always baffles me. 

What’s your piece of advice for people who want to quit their 9-5 job and start a business?

Don’t. When someone says, “I want to quit my job and start my own business.” It means a few things to me, (a) you haven’t already started the business, so technically where the hell are you going? And (b) you’re a person who believes in instant gratification. Generally, when someone wants to quit their 9-5 it isn’t because they want to work harder, it’s because they want more freedom, and owning a business DOES NOT give you freedom. Maybe they’re mad at their boss, maybe they’re having a bad day, maybe they want more money. All of this can be solved by finding a different job. A business is not a 9-5, a business is a 9 to whenever your eyes start burning and your body makes you go to sleep. 

Coming to the main part- has the pandemic affected your business, and what have you learned from it?

Businesses that were around before I was even born had to shut down because of the pandemic so no doubt my business was affected. Plus, I launched She’s SINGLE Magazine right before the lockdown – silly me. No one saw it coming. But like many other businesses I had to adapt. I learned something very important, I learned that if I am going to do business I need to again, take my emotions out of it. We see so many males owning female clothing stores – what the heck do they know about female clothing? Yet, they make billions in the market. As a business owner, it is not about what I like, individually, it’s about what I can package and sell. Now, don’t get me wrong if you’re going to go the entrepreneur route, of course, you should do what you love. But, for example, just because you love fashion and are a conservative dresser doesn’t mean you open a boutique and only sell ankle-length long-sleeve dresses. Just because you like it doesn’t mean it can be packaged and sold to the general public.  

What do you think is the key to a truly successful online business?

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An online business cannot survive without an offline presence. I’ve seen it. I work in retail PR full-time and have some clients who strongly believe that their e-commerce is supposed to be successful all on its own with no outside help from them. If you ask me website hosting is where the money resides lol. If you think about it, so many people pay hundreds a year to host their website online thinking that a domain name, a pretty website, a cute logo, and their face on the ‘About Us’ is the recipe for success. They make all of that happen and then sit and wait…time to GET RICH! 

Can you describe what you believe a typical workday is like in this industry?

It depends on which industry…

For the magazine – I know it can be hectic. I know there are plenty of magazines closing their doors because print advertising has almost become obsolete and a lot of the larger magazines now rely on Google AdSense to get by. A typical workday is scheduling and execution mainly. 

OTT Streaming – Acquiring rights for shows and movies. It is tedious and can no doubt be overwhelming. Especially now you take a streaming giant like Netflix which is losing subscribers in large numbers. It’s holding on for dear life and looking to incorporate ads. A workday is lots of emails and conversations with production companies, diversity meetings, marketing campaign meetings, etc. 

Retail PR – Scouting new clients, scheduling meetings, press pitching (lots and lots), and coordinating event meetings, event scouting, SEO building, and social media management. 

ASIAS Brands – Sales meetings, marketing campaign meetings, and order fulfillment. 

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?

Oh, most definitely. During the pandemic, my clients were dropping like flies and I was in the middle of production for the show, She’s SINGLE New York and I was panicking. As I mentioned earlier becoming an entrepreneur is not about financial freedom, it’s about financial knowledge. I did some quick thinking, made some changes, and before I knew it, I generated more profit than before.

Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?

In 5 years, I see ASIAS Brands becoming the primary focus of the business as far as having a good profit margin. From there, we will use the magazine as a secondary business model to have for advertisers and sponsored posts. I hope to remain in PR, I love it. In 5 years though, I think my primary focus will shift from retail PR to music. As far as the OTT, we will no doubt have a large library of content and be able to give our subscribers more than just shows. They can get packages where the magazine is included and even ASIAS Brands products. The company will be big and known worldwide. 

What does success mean to you?

Success for me means happily getting out of bed to go do a job I created for myself. 

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