#BuildFest 2019 Review - MyAfricanCorner

HustlWorks — #BuildFest 2019 Review - MyAfricanCorner - Hustl Works - Toronto, Ontario

We went to our first MyAfricanCorner event - #BuildFest.

BUILDfest is a forward-thinking business event for entrepreneurs and professionals from the Black community.

There were so many gems that we took away from this event like how to:

  • Own your story and “be too much”

  • Create an MVP product with the “Double Diamond” approach

  • Take on a BHAG with personal branding and ACT

  • Tell a story with your product and connecting with your community

  • Be smarter by building a profitable system

  • Fund your business from the start

  • Use the Facebook Blueprint for better Instagram Story ads

  • Build and scale your business

  • Get paid and make a profit

  • Strategize partnerships and close deals

Whew, that was a lot! But sounds amazing right? There were honestly so many influential black speakers and some really beautiful panels!


Own your story and “be too much”

Every struggle you’ve been through has been designed specifically for you

Life is hard but I think we were made to handle whatever is thrown at us. And even if it’s too much at the time, we learn and keep going. We all make mistakes but the key is learning from them! Don’t be afraid to “be too much” and that simply means being yourself; get to know yourself and work on projecting confidence.

Use your community to grow and always try to connect with others. We can’t always be “solopreneurs” and we do need the help of others to excel. Know that everything has a “story” and that’s what your brain uses to make sense of things (essentially justify actions). Ensure that you tell your own story and that story is your brand. Put yourself out there how you want to be seen and ensure your network reflects this. Don’t give your power away to people.

Karlyn Percil at MyAfricanCorner’s Build Fest

Create an MVP product with the “Double Diamond” approach

What is an MVP? It’s a Minimum Viable Product (MVP); essentially it’s the most basic version of your product in order to get it out, that you can then continue to iterate to make it faster and easier (for your customer) each time. This approach is similar to phone models (like iPhone) that always comes out with a “new and improved” product, and we all know we think something is good until we see the “new new” and cave into that newer version. And the best way to start off, especially as a small business, is with an MVP that you can put into the market.

Use the “Double Diamond” approach to “Diverge & Converge”. These steps are:

  1. Discover — Observe customers and information

  2. Define — What is your problem statement (what are you solving)?

  3. Develop — Test and match your problem statement with customer feedback

  4. Deliver — Produce your finalized product


Take on a BHAG with personal branding and ACT

So what the heck is a “BHAG” anyways? A BHAG is a Big Hair Audacious Goal - essentially a goal that is SO OUT THERE that on the journey of working towards this goal, you actually accomplish more than what you thought you would :) Kind of like shooting for the stars but landing on the moon - AIM HIGH! And the way you get there is by using BBG’s which are Building Block Goals (step-by-step).

Now that you have your goals, you got to ACT on it: Attract, Cultivate & Take Action. Big up yourself! Gather logos of other brands that you have worked with (show a bit of clout). This essentially shows how great you are at building relationships and that you know how to network and help build communities! Ensure you lead with clear intention and always provide value! Share your expertise and your successes/stories with others - you can’t assume everyone knows how awesome you are. Create a circle of different people with their own expertise so that you can leverage off each other; a network is important.

Tell a story with your product and connecting with your community

Not every product is a brand

A brand can be a company or it could actually be a person. A brand is how consumers connect and relate to you as a business. You want to be able to build long-term value and you do this with:

  • Voice — tone, language, etc

  • Narrative — timeline, past vs future, etc

  • Plot — key moments

A brand serves people so ensure your customers are always at the forefront of your business. Lead with purpose and it’ll help drive your business to make decisions. This is a community and your community dictates what they want (brands need to go to their audience first). Provide value that’s built from yourself. Remember that you OWN your assets which is your mailing list and website. Instagram could be gone in a day so make sure you lead your customers over into your own funnel.


Be smarter by building a profitable system

How do you get smarter with your assets and actually create a funnel, and one that’s a profitable system? Use the Attention Interest Desire Action (AIDA) Sales Funnel model. Grab your customer’s attention by creating a Lead Magnet (a free product you provide in exchange for someone’s name & email address). Your lead magnet has to be of some interest to that person so make sure it has value and is relative to your business in order to create desire. Then once you have their contact information, segment them into a specific list (group) and take action by putting them into an email sequence.

When running your business, there are a few free tools that you can use:

  • Email subscription management: Mailchimp, Klayvio, etc

  • Project management: Trello, Asana, Monday.com, etc

  • Automation: IFTTT & Zapier

Keep it simple.


Fund your business from the start

This section is all about starting your business with zero cash, bottom up. Really stretching that dollar! Here’s a few tips…

In the very digital world that we’re in, a phone call is very personable - actual voice conversations still matter. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone when trying to build relationships and book those meetings. Take advantage of free information, courses, etc and learn from others’ mistakes. This will save you a ton of money in the future if you do it right the first time.

When it comes to marketing, you don’t need a huge budget at all. Hubspot has free tools for example for managing your customers, sales, marketing and service. If you have a unique or market-disrupting business idea, look for pitch competitions where they offer money with no strings attached. Places like DMZ “zones” at Ryerson University offer incubators (if you’re full-time into your business) to accelerate your business. Another great resource is the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) - especially for the youth and women.

Prioritize processes that make it easier and/or faster, and give the most value to growing your business. And in the meantime, there is no shame in getting a part-time job to pay for your expenses as you build your way.


Use the Facebook Blueprint for better Instagram Story ads

Instagram is super helpful for e-commerce businesses by using Instagram Shopping to encourage your followers to purchase from you in an easy way. Augmented Reality (AR) is huge right now; did you know that those famously used Face filters on Instagram are AR? Instagram Stories have had the biggest growth and you need to start using them for your business NOW. People over-analyze their Instagram feed and get anxious over what and when to post, so Stories help this issue by being more “in the moment”. Advertisers are seeing this as a huge opportunity to connect with consumers - but you have to catch their attention in 15 secs or less!

Here are a few Instagram Story tips to use for Stories and ads:

  • Stories should inspire, entertain, inform & teach

  • The first few seconds are crucial, so use motion like “swipe up” and transition

  • Take advantage of full/vertical “real estate” using zoom and typography

Facebook showed some really cool tricks by playing with stickers, the eraser, snapshot, and rewind. Learn more through Facebook Blueprint.

Facebook Blueprint - Instagram Stories at Build Fest

Build and scale your business

Did you know that at least 7/10 people are employed by small businesses? Small businesses drive the economy.

So what do successful entrepreneurs do differently?

  • Build and manage relationships

  • Show growth over time and provide updates

  • Be in the spaces that promote marketing

  • Build a team (no solopreneurs)!

Have a very strong network and look for those who’ve “been there, done that” - the more successful the better (keeps you humble). Think about the PEOPLE first (your brand culture) and look to have conversations and actually listen. How to find someone special like this that you can have as a mentor?

  • What do you want out of this person?

  • Meet face-to-face to see if you are a good fit for each other

  • Ensure you can add value to them (don’t always look to take)

How to find a mentor

Business Law can be pretty intimidating but there are legal services and resources (like a Secure Checklist) from businesses like MARS, City of Toronto, and the DMZ to help you out. When it comes to your own business, there are some things to consider:

  1. Where do you want the business to go? What’s your “exit strategy”?

  2. Equity is the most expensive way to fund your business

  3. Every relationship should have an agreement (contract, etc)

  4. Protect your brand (intellectual property like trademarks)

Ensure you are very strategic and intentional with your business path. Research about your industry through google and events, and become a known figure - be your own boss!


Get paid and make a profit

This is something we wish we could scream to everyone starting a businesses: BUILD IN A PLAN TO GET PAID! Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of potential upfront costs and time it might take before turning a profit and actually being able to pay for yourself. However don’t forget about paying yourself down the road, or else your business will just become an expensive hobby!

Profit formula = (Business goals + financial plans + financial actions) / (Money mindset + habits)

So what do you want to pay yourself?! Make sure you take into account your expenses and be able to budget.

Revenue does not equal Profit

Ensure at the least you are able to cover your costs, cover your personal expenses and factor in growth for the business. Don’t self yourself short ;)


Strategize partnerships and close deals

Whether you haven’t started your business yet or just at the beginning, making strategic partnerships will help you at any stage of your business.

Dare to do things before you’re ready!

Doing things before you’re ready will put you in a position to get there and learn. Similar to ensuring you have a BHAG.

Currency comes in different forms.

Choose a partner where you’re on the same page and looking towards a common goal. Think about the future when deciding to align yourself with. A partnership may not always be profitable (direct profit) but you may learn something which could be of even a greater value to you and your business. Take a risk for opportunities and SHOW UP! People fall in love with the person behind the brand first, so make those connections!

Be prepared for all opportunities by having a deck showcasing your best. You can create a generic deck (using something like Canva which can be hosted LIVE online) and customize it for each potential partner. Include details like your shared goal, ask questions and cater to their challenges (find this information out during meetings or their website - do your research!). Get familiar with your industry’s calendar (ie. see when expos happen) when trying to be strategic with your timing.

Overall at Build Fest

As you can tell, there were PLENTY of gems at Build Fest and we’re definitely hoping there will be another Build Fest in 2021 so we can attend again :) Thank you so much to everyone involved and the BuildFest speakers. And just maybe you’ll see us as a Community Partner!

Please, please, please keep this page as a resource and look to it when deciding to start your business as there are tons of amazing things to implement.

Let’s get sh*t done.

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