Together Emily and Shannon are the hosts of the top-ranked podcast “Being Boss,” a show that has helped thousands of creative entrepreneurs authentically brand and position themselves as creative experts. Emily Thompson founded Indie Shopography, a design and strategy studio for online entrepreneurs, in 2009. Emily has worked to help makers, coaches, and designers develop an online business model, strategize and launch websites, and grow their online business. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her life and business partner, David, and their daughter. Kathleen Shannon is the founder of Braid Creative and Consulting, a boutique branding agency and consultancy she co-owns with her sister. She also does creative coaching and is regularly invited to speak on personal branding at design conferences and retreats. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and son. For more information about their book Being Boss (Running Press; April 2018), please visit https://beingboss.club/book
How did you get into the industry?
We both started working for ourselves, Emily as an online business strategist and Kathleen with a boutique branding agency, as a way to do the work we're best at for only the dreamiest of clients. After hiring each other to elevate our online presence and personal brands we also started sharing clients – creative entrepreneurs who wanted to make money doing what they love with their own online businesses. But more than sharing clients, we started sharing secrets – every month we were getting together to have what we call "business bestie" conversations about industry trends, what was working, and what wasn't. We were talking about our mindset, habits, and routines as well as how we were managing our time, money, and balancing growing families with growing our businesses.
One day we decided to record those business bestie conversations and hit publish on them. That's how the Being Boss podcast was born. It wound up becoming it's own business and now a book!
Any emerging industry trends?
In the grand scheme of things online business is still in its infancy – but we are seeing a trend of people retreating from the noise of social media and connecting in ways that feel more meaningful. Our podcast has resonated with so many creatives because every week our listeners are getting to eavesdrop on real conversations from creatives who are in it with them – it's not just another listicle or click bait or empty promises for six-figure launches.
Along with creating content that has more value and impact, we've found magic happens when online businesses are making an effort to connect with their tribe offline – we definitely see retreats, conferences, and pop-up shops making a big impact for brands and their customers.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
The noisier it gets online the more discerning your potential customers will get. This means you can't phone it in – cheesy sales copy that worked in 1995 won't cut it today. This means online companies are going to have to cut the bullshit and get real with their consumers by being transparent, saying what they mean, and integrating more values (like social justice, conservation, and diversity) into their brands in a real way.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
For us, what started as a podcast has now grown into a thriving community of creatives that value connection over competition. About a year after launching Being Boss on iTunes we decided to take a vacation to New Orleans. We thought it would be fun to invite our audience and when 75 "bosses" (that's what we call our tribe) showed up we had a mini-conference unlike anything we had ever experienced. We were going on ghost tours, creating our own parade, and talking shop (and life) over cocktails.
We realized that magic happens when we connect face to face – so we're integrating that into our business model and want to continue to create offline experiences for our community. For us this looks like continuing to go on vacations and even launching a conference. But we also want to continue to grow our online media presence in a meaningful way – along with the podcast we'd love to have a TV show on YouTube or Netflix that highlights what it means to be a working creative entrepreneur.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
We just published our first book (April 2018) and would love to write another book together! We're also hosting our annual Being Boss vacation in New Orleans and are beginning to map out our plans for what a conference would start to look like. We're so excited about all the growth and opportunity we have – our brand has a lot of momentum behind it right now and we want to continue to ride that wave!
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
We knew when we started our podcast that if we partnered with any corporate sponsors that it would have to be a perfect fit. We didn't just want to sell ad space – we wanted to be compensated for the time we were spending podcasting by a partner who actually added value to our listeners' businesses. Freshbooks Cloud Accounting has been with us since almost day one and they're so much more than a sponsor – we've been able to collaborate with them on offline events (they're the ones that helped us throw a parade for our bosses in New Orleans!), online trainings where together we're teaching our audience about creative entrepreneurship, and more. Their support has afforded us to grow and has modeled to us the ideal relationship we pursue with all of our sponsors.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
As creative entrepreneurs the opportunities for how we grow and the value we provide is limitless – and with that comes a lot of decisions to be made. We want to create community but it has to feel right. So recently we shut down a Facebook group that had over 25,000 members in it. The space was mostly thriving and positive but we didn't have the bandwidth to keep up with it – and ultimately putting our attention and efforts into a Facebook group didn't feel aligned with what we were trying to create.
It took us about a year of trying to figure out the best way to make that group work until we ultimately decided to shut it down and what we learned is that a seemingly little issue can actually take up a lot of headspace. It felt like such a weight lifted when we shut down that group – a weight we really didn't even know was so heavy! So what we learned is to regularly take stock of what's working and what's not so you can move through your work with levity and focus.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
At this point our ideal customer or podcast listener is craving honest conversation, meaningful connections, and insights from someone who is in it with them. They feel most understood when we say the things they're thinking but nobody else is saying – it's how they know that their struggles, desires, and values are seen, understood, and reflected back at them. For us we hope this happens in every single experience we provide – from listening to our podcast, to reading our book, watching our Instagram stories, or showing up to one of our in-person meet-ups or events.
And then we want that experience to go beyond how they feel about us – we want our tribe to begin connecting with each other. Finding their own business bestie to share, collaborate, and create with – that's when we know we've facilitated a true community.
How do you motivate others?
When we were writing our book we asked our most loyal podcast listeners what advice or insights stood out the most to them – and they all said our unofficial tagline of "do the work" is the thing they keep coming back to when they're struggling. The idea behind "doing the work" is to take action. It's not thinking about the work. It's not procrastinating or putting off decisions. It's about hitting publish or launching before you're ready or sending that important email. It's about knowing what you want, breaking it down step-by-step, and going for it.
Career advice to those in your industry?
The thing we want every creative to feel is a sense of self-reliance. To trust that even if they don't have the answers that they will be able to figure it out. We also want creatives to know that you won't always feel confident and motivated – that's when you need to have the habits and an action plan to make your dreams a reality