3 years ago, unbeknownst to my friends and family, I started a business out of my basement with 0 followers, 0 emails, and $300 in inventory.
There were multiple reasons why, at 28 years old, I decided it was finally time to start a business. My corporate job had stopped promoting me. They didn’t see my potential and constantly said “You just don’t have enough experience for this role.”
“Well,” I would think, “How the hell does one get experience?”
We were broke. Like really, freaking, broke. Mortgage payments were getting pushed to the 15th of the month. Our credit card was about to hit its limit, and I was regularly calling every 6 months to defer my student loans. At this pace, we were never going to get ahead. Life looked bleak and I was incredibly unfulfilled.
But MY biggest push… I wanted another baby.
More than anything, I wanted to be a mother again. After having a life-saving hysterectomy after having my first child at 25, my heart was shattered. All I had dreamed of was rocking another baby to sleep. My heart ached as I would whisper this prayer every night, “God, please give me one more chance at motherhood.” My soul was crushed.
This is how entrepreneurs are born. They come from pressure, much like a diamond. They have finally had enough of everything the world has served up, and they allow themselves to be refined in the fire, rather than wilt away. Out of the immense pressure, inadequacy, and grief, Olivia, the entrepreneur, was born.
When all else fails, quietly go to work.
The first phase was research. Obsessive, scrolling the internet, praying for an answer to land on my doorstep, kind of research. I googled every type of passive income I could find. To be fair, I was a working mother, and I knew the money had to be somewhat passive because I could never survive another full-time job on top of everything else I had going on. All of the business ideas I saw needed capital to start.
And did I mention? We didn’t have a pot to piss in.
So, I started the only way I knew how. I started small. I ordered samples from China. Every kind of sample I could find. I went on AliExpress and bought jade face rollers, clothing, plant macramé holders, and this random fake engagement ring.
A few months later, everything arrived.
And in one insignificant-looking package, was a ring. It was beautiful, shiny, and looked remarkably real. As I looked through my samples, I thought, “if I’m going to sell something, I better sell something that I don’t mind looking at every single day.”
So fake engagement rings it was.
I then found a manufacturer. I needed the ring to be made with my specifications. Specific metals, stones, and a quality standard that would set us, set ME, apart. Rings that looked like real diamonds but wouldn’t turn your finger green. I bull shitted and bluffed my way through a manufacturing process with almost no money by telling them I would place larger orders once they were able to truly prove the quality. I will be honest, I knew nothing about jewelry and had to Google almost every question they asked me.
When all else fails, sell yourself as an expert.
I had 30 days until the product would arrive at my doorstep, and I knew I needed to turn it over quickly to get the next batch rolling. How in the heck was I going to sell my products without an audience?
I had 0 followers, 0 emails... I was a total nobody.
As any stressed out individual does, I found myself scrolling Instagram. I noticed someone I went to high school with tagged a woman in her post. My old classmate was thanking her for hair tips, and praising her new hair for the glorious shape it was now in. My hair was a disaster, so I followed the tag to an Instagram page of a woman with the most beautiful, full, golden blonde head of hair I have ever laid eyes on.
I was quickly was sucked into every highlight bubble, every tidbit of knowledge, and wondered how I would sprout hair like this out of my own scalp. More importantly, I watched every story she posted, every single day.
When she said, “buy this brush”, I bought it. When she said “I do this”, I did it. I was influenced. I trusted her. Although she did not know me, I felt like we were best friends. She shared her life, her kids, and invited me into her home every day.
And then the moment came, while purchasing the next product she said she loved, I realized that I needed to give her my product! She was pregnant, like really pregnant, and I knew that some women would buy fake wedding rings when their fingers would swell up from pregnancy.
I tried to get into her Instagram DMs, but she never saw it. I knew they must be full. But I also knew she owned a hair salon. And she probably didn’t get a ton of messages on the salon Facebook page (Yes, this is next-level stalker status, I KNOW)
When all else fails, shoot your shot.
PS: let me remind you, I did not have any products yet. You might call me stupid, but I would say I am bold. What follows in the next paragraph is exactly what I did that changed the rest of my life.
I sent this EXACT message. I am not great with people or words, but there is something charming about my weirdness.
ME: Influencer Needed: Hey Jasmine, I can't seem to find an email address to contact you, so I hope you receive this message. I am looking to add an influencer to my team and I absolutely love following you on social media. I remember after having my baby, my fingers were huge and I couldn't fit into my wedding ring. Can I send you a FREE ring. If you like it, we can work out an influencer contract.
ME: Re-reading this and thinking that I did not mean your fingers are huge. Mine just were. So if you think you want a ring for your very skinny fingers, let me know. I’m feeling very socially awkward now.
JASMINE: Haha it’s all good girl. I do have sausage fingers. For real. Pregnant or not. Yes I’m interested! Tell me more
A few weeks later, the rings arrived at my house. I shipped one of each to her. There was an overwhelming gut feeling. I had to do it. I had to “wow” her.
And then, right around the time the package was supposed to arrive…. She went into labor.
I thought I lost my chance. I really did. But I also know one thing. Silence doesn’t always mean no. Not now, doesn’t mean no. In order to work with what we have, persistence is key. I reached out a few times after her baby was born, congratulated her, and made sure I checked in with her frequently. I create a discount code with her name on it, let her know, and continued on with my life.
One afternoon in April, I was sitting at lunch with a friend when my phone went “Cha-Ching” (for those of you that don’t use Shopify, that means you just made a sale). One cha-ching was a good feeling. A little dopamine blast in my brain. Maybe someone stumbled upon my poorly designed website and decided to take a chance. But then it went off again. And again. Sudden panic. What the hell is going on?
So, I checked Instagram and had a flood of new followers. Have I been hacked? What kind of hackers would send me money? This was making absolutely no sense.
Jasmine had posted new stories and her bubble was back at the top of Instagram, so I looked. She was talking about me! She showed the, MY, rings. She carefully explained everything she knew. She mentioned ME by name. She knew my name. I was star-struck by this huge influencer and her absolute kindness on social media. More importantly, her followers were as committed to her as I was. They bought my rings because Jasmine said they were the best.
By the end of the night, every ring I had was sold.
Complete awe as I saw how much money I had made that day (More than 3 months’ salary at my corporate job!) and then sheer panic. I didn’t have a printer to print shipping labels. I didn’t know how to bulk-process orders. I had absolutely no idea how to move forward.
Bit by bit, I figured it out. I wrote a hand-written letter in each package (never doing that again!) expressing my gratitude for each purchase. I was truly grateful for each woman, and prayed the Lord would bless her, just like He had blessed me. My husband and I packed each ring into a tiny purple ring box and shipped them off.
In 2 days, every package was mailed out and I had placed another order in China with all of the money I had made. We did around $12,000 in sales from one post, and I was completely sold out of everything.
I was raised in a small Norman Rockwell kind of town. 5,000 people, one high school, 3 stoplights, and no Walmart. Life was simple and growing up there was beautiful. But here I was, with more Instagram followers than where I grew up, no idea how to show up on Instagram, and so many women that wanted to know “who is the face behind this brand our friend Jasmine has shared?”
I was (cough, cough) …. am… incredibly awkward. And there was no hiding it on Instagram. Maybe they loved the “realness”, maybe they watched to cringe, but whatever it was. Whatever I was. It was in high demand. I knew I had to do it. I would pump myself up, and no matter what, I would get online and share my brand. Share my heart. Share videos of my daughter Stella. I constantly showed up. The more I showed up, the more money I made. I would share my products, funny stories, pretty much everything in my little world. I was consistent. And the more consistent I was, the better I got. The less awkward I felt. The more I let people get to know me. It was the bravest, most beautiful thing I have allowed myself to do.
And I learned... consistency is truly the key to success.
Jasmine did what we now call “influencer gigs” for me. I brought on new influencers, none that did what she did, but I got a few sales here and there. I knew I could not rely on Jasmine to keep my business going. I needed to figure out how to keep sales steady and consistent, without help from anyone.
I posted deals. Shared the products I loved. Showed my struggles. My heartaches. And my joy. I didn’t hold back from my audience, but I also kept a lot of things behind closed doors.
Like when my marriage started to deteriorate...
Or the hurtful things my friends and family would say behind my back.
The anxiety that accompanied me at every waking moment of the day for fear that my success would end, and I would fail in front of thousands.
But nonetheless, I talked to these women, my followers, the way that I would talk to my best friend. I would receive messages where women shared secrets or stories with me that they thought I would enjoy. Pictures of their dogs, their kids, their rings.
I realized something. I did not know them, but they knew me.
And when I brought them into my home, into my journey, into my life, they thought of me as a friend. They were counting on me to show up. My Instagram stories were like a never-ending reality show that they could watch every day. And that’s when it hit me! I had become my own influencer.
When all else fails, become the person that you need most.
Within six months, my business had done over six figures in sales. I quit my corporate job (because I now had the experience) and went out on my own. As my business has grown and my following has become more committed, I have learned the power of showing up each and every day. In being authentically me (even when I am painfully awkward), and always using MY voice. I have worked with influencers since Jasmine, but none have converted as well as me or her.
So here is what you need to know, sis.
No one else has your voice. No one else has your message. No one else can be you. People buy from people, not businesses. You have one incredible gift, and I know you need to share it with the world. Hell, you know you need to share it with the world. I don’t have to tell you that! Every moment you hold back, you are robbing all of us of something beautiful, authentic, and real. The world needs you to show up. Do not wait.