#HERSTORY With Erica Nicole of YFS Magazine

When I first took the leap into entrepreneurship I honestly had no clue what I was doing and depended on the internet for most of the answers to my questions. One of the sites that has helped me out a TON in my journey is Young Fabulous & Self-Employed Magazine (YFS Magazine). I'm so excited today to have the founder, Erica Nicole as my latest #HerStory feature! Not only is she an amazing business woman who provides so much valuable content through her online magazine but she is a dynamic speaker and her work has been featured in major publications like Forbes and The Huffington Post. This interview is packed with so much great advice and resources so I definitely suggest taking out your pen and paper!

Photo Credit: Jhnea Turner

Photo Credit: Jhnea Turner

Taking the leap of faith into entrepreneurship is a major step! How did you know it was the right path for you?

Many would-be entrepreneurs contemplate whether entrepreneurship is the right path, personally and professionally. I knew early on (call it a gut feeling) that I would transition from corporate America, in my early twenties, and become "Young, Fabulous & Self-Employed."

I knew I did not want to be average. I could work hard for someone else’s dream or hustle twice as hard for my own. So, I started with a vision of what I wanted my life to look like. Then I merged that vision with my talents, skill set and passion points.

My vision was simple at the time: To live life on my own terms, maximize my earning potential, and jet set around the world. First, I was talented at communicating and autodidacticism (becoming self-taught). Second, my skill sets were refined by my time in corporate America managing upwards of $25 million in global media budgets for the world’s most trusted brands. Third, I was passionate about building companies. I leveraged this trifecta (talent, skill set and passion) as the groundwork to become an entrepreneur.

Like most, my path to entrepreneurship was unclear at first. I knew I would own my own company, but I wasn’t sure how I would get there. But if you look back at your life, success always leaves clues.
I made a quality decision to start the journey where I was at with what I had.

As the late Jim Rohn, acclaimed motivational speaker and author, said: "You must either modify your dreams or magnify your skills." I chose the latter.

YFS Magazine has helped me so much in my business journey. What was the inspiration behind creating the brand?

That’s really inspiring to hear YFS Magazine has helped you as an entrepreneur.

I was inspired to create YFS Magazine because I wanted to serve people. I literally asked God, “What did you put me here to do?”

Our work is a gift – to us and those it’s meant to serve. Life becomes epic when you think less about how your gift serves you and more about what it can do for the world.

I realized there was a gap in the market. Much of the business media that was out there was very high level and quick hits without depth. For me, it didn’t offer the granular, practical application I (and most entrepreneurs) need.

I decided to create a digital platform for gen-y millennial go-getters . It had to be exuberant, smart, provocative, insanely addictive, relevant, and action-oriented. I knew that with strong execution, and a mission to entertain, inform, and inspire, we could deliver a product that founders could rely on.

As an entrepreneur myself, I don’t care for fluff. I appreciate information that cuts to the chase and doubles down on practical application so I can work smarter. The editorial tone and voice of YFS Magazine speaks to that ideal.

As a unique and authoritative voice in the business media landscape, we deliver the most authentic, credible, and comprehensive coverage from the most trusted voices in small business.

It started with one and grew to a global platform that today serves entrepreneurs, small business owners, founders and CEO's. We’ve amassed a readership of global business leaders, venture capitalists, innovators and startup enthusiasts.

Our content is fueled by well-respected entrepreneurs and subject matter experts; they are the voice of small business – I am the catalyst to that voice. 

I love that you have created a major personal brand as well. Why do you think branding yourself is so important?

Personal branding is essential in today’s digital age. A personal brand acts as an umbrella to halo all of your touchpoints in market. What you say, how you say it, when you say it and where you say it are pivotal to the brand called you.

Also, look at it this way: when you establish a personal brand, ventures may come and go, but your brand is established. It acts as a business fail-safe, drives thought leadership and contributes to influence. All of these things impact your bottom-line.

By building a personal brand, in tandem with YFS Magazine’s brand, I’ve garnered brand collaborations with Visa, MasterCard, Google, Grasshopper.com, and more.

I’ve leveraged my brand to become a keynote speaker on women in leadership, small business, and Gen-Y startup topics. As a result I’ve been tapped for speaking engagements at Cornell University, UT-Knoxville and The Dallas Federal Reserve, to name a few.

Meanwhile, I judged the 2013 Microsoft Imagine Cup— the world’s premier student technology competition, and Startup Chile, a program of the Chilean Government to attract world-class early stage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Chile.

These opportunities are directly tied to my personal brand. I figure if Grumpy Cat (a cat) has a personal brand franchise to the tune of $100 million, you should too!

If we were to open up your calendar, what would a typical day look like for you?

The typical day of an entrepreneur is atypical. Most days I wake up at around six. Some mornings I'll work out. Then I’ll make a pot of matcha green tea and review my agenda for the day (which I pull together the night before – sometimes weekly). I also spend 15 minutes (my clarity moment) to think, pray and set the pace and expectation for the day. (Life gives you what you demand of it, so I make it a practice to rise and shine with high expectations).

When I'm in the office I often have back-to-back commitments, whether it’s a video conference with an entrepreneur, working with our dev team on product development, whiteboard sessions or building out programs for brand collaborations. (I spend more time on strategy than tactics, but it’s the flip side when you’re just getting started. Learning to transition from working in your business to working on it is a power move.)

I also spend a good deal of time mapping out the editorial direction of YFS Magazine. I sign off on final edits from YFS Magazine’s global contributors. The editorial tone and voice of YFS Magazine has remained authentic and I believe that my hands-on approach makes it possible. It enables us to deliver a unique and authoritative voice in the business media landscape; authentic, credible, and comprehensive coverage from the most trusted voices in small business.

I generally don’t check email until after lunch. This ensures that I’m driving my own agenda during the most productive hours of my day. I’m highly sensitive to leveraging my 80-20; Pareto’s Law applied to my workflow. Twenty percent of my effort should produce 80 percent of my results. If not, something’s broken!

Lastly, I work in strides—bursts of productivity to avoid the pseudo-work trap. I accomplish more by doing less, focus on what’s important instead of what’s urgent (my mother taught me there’s a difference) and doubling down on productivity hacks to stay focused.

My two pups, Jaxsen (Yorkshire Terrier) and Lola (Pomeranian) are also always with me; from the office, to brunch meetings, and out of the country – dogs have an endearing way of making the day bright. Small, furry reminders to “wag more and bark less.” 

Photo Credit: Jhnea Turner

Photo Credit: Jhnea Turner

Your work has been published on some of the most influential business sites like Forbes and The Huffington post. What has been your favorite piece you've written so far?

As a syndicated columnist, I contribute to national media outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, Black Enterprise, and The Huffington Post.

My two favorite pieces I’ve written to date are: 1) a Forbes piece entitled, ‘Four Things Female Founders Should Know’. It’s a provocative look at why authenticity is a bankable currency, owning success and more.

And 2) Six Ways To Turn Online Connections Into Offline Business Relationships. Here I challenge you to ask yourself “How well is your online networking actually working? And why “you can pick my brain” if I can pick your wallet.

I share practical tips that speak to real life challenges and experiences that are commonplace for female founders.

You and your team are constantly updating the site with amazing content! What tips can you give on continually coming up with new ideas & preventing writers block?

As a digital media company, ideas are currency. I find the best way to come up with new ideas is to look outside of our immediate niche. We look at larger life and pop culture perspectives and drill them down to a POV that speaks to entrepreneurs.

Let’s say you watch House of Cards. I bet you’ve never thought what Frank Underwood could teach you about business! I have and hence, ‘10 Business Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Frank Underwood’  was born.

I’m not a linear thinker so I see the application of entrepreneurship, literally, everywhere. But today, I’m a smaller piece of that editorial ideation. Instead I drive strategy.

YFS Magazine’s global contributors are the voice of entrepreneurship culture. From Bhavin Parikh, CEO and co-founder of Magoosh, revealing ‘6 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask During an Investor Meeting’ to Kamran Farid, the co-founder of Edible Arrangements sharing 5 Quick Tips On Growing Your Brand From Zero To $500 Million’..

We assemble well-known, and up-and-coming, subject-matter experts who are stand-outs in their field. Their collective voice and startup ideas are the driving force behind our addictive small business advice.

Back to me personally, I use Feedly, an RSS aggregator, to consume information quickly and easily. This helps with ideation, because you’re not scouring the net for inspiration.

Also, I keep my ear to the ground on social media. Reading through comments, forums and sites like Quora, where people openly share questions; this sparks ideas.

You can keep writers block at bay by staying in your lane – writing about topics that actually interest you. Also I keep an online repository of random ideas. I store my notes in Asana and reference them to see which ideas really spark; others I come back to later.

Early on I used PollDaddy to ask our readers what topics they wanted us to delve into. Online surveys are a great way to get new ideas from the people that actually care about what you're saying. 

What marketing strategies or other techniques have helped you in successfully growing your business?

By the very nature of our business we are content marketers. So, I know content marketing gets results.

Social media marketing is in our roots. I used Twitter, which is essentially a microblogging platform, to grow YFS Magazine in the early days with no marketing budget.

Ultimately, inbound marketing is the golden egg. “Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.” (Hubspot)

Through content dev, social publishing, lead gen tactics – all of our inbound activities attract global advertisers. Visa, Sage and many others, come to us with very little “hard sell” legwork.

Also, I can’t deny the power of WOM.

3 Words To Describe Erica Nicole As An Entrepreneur

Faith-driven, Altruistic & Bold

We all know that entrepreneurship is tough, could you tell us about a business mistake you've made and what you've learned from it?

Day one: start to build your email subscriber list! Start testing email marketing tactics early. I would have leveraged email marketing sooner than later.

We overhauled YFS Magazine’s weekly newsletter last year. And I shared ‘8 Practical Lessons Learned From Our Newsletter Redesign’ that goes into more depth here.

Choose an email marketing service  and grow your email subscriber list. Email marketing is not dead and as marketing expert David Newman @dnewman says, “Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches – at scale.”

What advice would you give a young woman currently wanting to take the leap into entrepreneurship?

Think big, but act incrementally. Create a time-bound, detailed plan. Don’t worry about what you don’t know, you’ll find ways to cancel your weaknesses and double down on your strengths as you go. It is the small daily steps you take that make the difference.

Understand that you will have to persevere. Ignore the naysayers and critics. Things unsuccessful people should never tell me: 1. Anything. (And by unsuccessful, I mean those who have not successfully carried out a particular task. For instance, I am successful in business, but not at open heart surgery; that I’d be highly unsuccessful at until I had mastered it.) You need to learn from those that do, not those who say what you can’t do.

You do not need to be everything to everyone. The way I see it is: If you don’t like what I’m selling, it’s not for you. Simple.

Stop seeking external validation. Validation is for parking. Validate yourself and get clear about your unique value and contribution to the world.

The greatest way to overcome fear is to take action. Just start and do. Execute non-stop. You gain confidence through “the doing.”

And most importantly, build endurance. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. To paraphrase Jerry Rice, you must do what others won't, so tomorrow you can accomplish and have what others can't.

Keep up with Erica Nicole through Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn & Facebook

And with YFS Magazine through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn & Google+