Sonjia Mackey

Client name: Sonjia Mackey

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Book (if they have one): Unleash The Beast: Escape Corporate Life to Live Your Dream Life

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In this interview


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Transcript of Our Interview:

There are a lot of advantages to building a community around your business, both financial and other. Many entrepreneurs that I work with are attempting to do this. In my experience, I’ve seen that people typically have more success building a community as a passion project rather than building it as an income stream, although it can end up being both. Does that line up with your experience?

Hmm. That’s interesting because I actually am considering that right now. When I first started my community, I had the idea that I wanted it to be a support mechanism…a place where women could go and get that sense of solidarity with other women that were going through the exact same thing that they were. A place where they could get that sense of community, where they could get that empowerment, that encouragement, that inspiration, motivation…everything that they need to keep going down this entrepreneurial path. Those are the women that I serve, women who are leaving corporate to become entrepreneurs.

The type of person I am, I am just all in 110%. So I give to the group daily even when I’m on vacation if I come across a news article I think “Oh, this would be great in the group, they would love this! This would resonate with them.” Then I go ahead and I post in the group because I can no more not share and not help these women than I could not breathe.

But I’ve been thinking more recently that there are a lot of people who have an opt-in freebie, you know, maybe an ebook or something like that, and for me, my group has been my opt-in freebie. You opt-in and come and join my group. It is the free taste of me and the taste of what I have to offer and how I can help. But I also think that if you’re not careful in terms of how you set up the group and how you manage it, it can lead people down the path where they just want free information and then it’s hard to then monetize the groups because they’ve had the expectation of so many tips and so much value that it’s being provided for free.

So now when you put an offer in front of them, you’ll hear crickets even when they have the very problem that you help to solve.  I sat in on a webinar the other night for entrepreneurs and she was against the opt in freebie. She said it sets you up for people who want things for free instead of people who are willing to pay for your offerings. And I think that there is a measure of truth to that. Now I am pivoting on that and I know that it differs from a lot of entrepreneurs, but of course, as we know, an entrepreneur should have their own opinion. And even if it’s polarizing, even if it differs from what other people think, you have to stand in your truth and your authenticity. I believe that.

I think that you can go too far with a freebie and you can set your ideal target audience up to always expect things for free. Now I am pivoting on my recommendations in my coaching program, and also what I am doing in my business. I’m not going to be doing the free opt in anymore. I’ll still have the group, but I will not be giving away as much information.

I think that since the group has been open, I have always been the main one doing the talking and posting. And of course, I’m that type of a person…very assertive, very talkative and that sort of thing. But now I want to be intentional about giving my community more of a chance to step up and support one another versus me being the main catalyst in the group. So I’m stepping back a little bit to allow them to step up more and stop lurking and hiding, so they will do more posting and support one another, which was always one of the key goals of the group. This will help as I pull back on giving as much free information so that this free community is very supportive and encouraging and all that great stuff that they love it for, it is also a compliment to my business. You will see offers in this group that bother people and I’m always keeping it real from that perspective. Then this may not be the group for you, but they do recognize the why it is a free support group. It is a compliment to my business, which means there are going to be offers that are going to be placed in the group.

Yeah, that makes sense. I feel like that’s a really good direction. And one side note about another reason to let the community do some of their own posting and be their own support is that it’s just simply a lot of work for you, as the person who’s the only one speaking, to be running yourself ragged with the responsibility of keeping the conversation going by yourself.

Yes. The group is certainly at a point where I can step away for several days a week or so and it’s not like crickets. They will talk and they will continue to post and they will continue to do that. In both of my Facebook groups, my primary, a member of groups in my traveling adventure group and also in my women’s empowerment group. But yes, you want to step back so that you’re not always doing the worksheet so they get a chance to support one another. Because I do think there is an element to them seeing me as being on the other side. You’re the entrepreneur that has made it. You have the life that I want. So while they listen to me, I’ve noticed that I can post something like a particular quote or meme and it gets some likes and comments, but somebody else that is on their level trying to achieve what they’re trying to achieve, that it’s in the same spot can post that exact same quote or meme or whatever it is.

And they will get many, many more likes and many, many more comments because there is an element of them resonating with someone who is in their same position right now. And even though they listen to me and they follow me, I’m still on the other side. I don’t know if they see it as, well, she’s not quite where we are. So maybe she’s lost touch with that. She’s on the other side, she doesn’t quite get it or understand it, which is obviously not the case from my perspective, but that may be how they perceive it. There’s an element of them wanting to hear from people who are just like them in the same spot that they’re in experiencing the exact same things that they are going through right now. Not someone who is necessarily someone who has gone onto the other side. Does that make sense?

Yeah. Yeah. So, question for you with the community you have right now, you have this big active engaged community, which is great and it makes sense for you to be able to step away and let them engage more. Do you think that if you would have taken this business model when you were initially building your community and had a more of a hands off approach that you would have had as much success in building the community from the ground up?

I had another group before so I kind of knew how the group worked, the group dynamics and the mentality and all that sort of thing. The group has definitely been successful and I get comments and testimonies to that all the time where women are posting in the group about what a great space it is, how inspirational and motivational it is, how it was the catalyst for them making some key decisions and changing their lives. But I get a ton of those types of testimonies that support that this is a very successful group and they get a lot from it.

I think though from my perspective, if I could start the group all over again, I would have implemented some of the things that I’ve talked to you about just a little while ago, positioning it more, letting people know that it is a compliment to my business, that there will be offers on the table, letting them support one another versus me be more than one to talk to. Of course, you do have to let go a little bit of that in the beginning because it’s crickets in the beginning and you have to be the one that kind of sets the tone and engages because it’s your group and that’s understandable. But there are some things I would have done differently that would have positioned it to grow to be more of something that I can monetize. I think I would’ve made more money from the group. And that’s certainly a part of it because it as a compliment to my business, it is full of my ideal target clients, the women that I am trying to serve and help change their lives. So they are there, but a lot of them are sitting there and not really taking action. And so in the back of my mind, a part of me has wondered, did I set them up for this? By not positioning the group as something that was going to be monetized as something that was a part of my business from the very beginning instead of just a supportive help community. You see what I’m saying?

Yeah, and on the same line, one of the questions I had prepared for this interview was talking about your personal story. And I think some people, when they’re trying to build a community, they feel hesitant to expose a lot of the personal side and put a lot of them in it. But in my experience, I think that’s what people really resonate with and what the community can be built around – relating to you. I think you’re very personal and real in your community. Would you say that’s a big component of having that community?

Absolutely. I mean not just in terms of having a community, but in terms of having a business. I think that, and I tell this to my potential clients all the time, there’s a difference between just pursuing a stream of income and pursuing what I call purpose-driven work, which is the area where I work in. I work with women who are trying to find their divine assignment, who are trying to find that unique combination of their passions, their gifts, their skills, their talents, their personality, the way in which they are meant to show up in the world. That is more than just what they do well or what they have always done. I tell them all the time, your purpose could be rooted in a painful situation in your life. Look around you. You see people who are living a purpose that is born out of pain every single day.

Someone who has had cancer, someone who has suffered a divorce, a death in the family, lost a child, sexually assaulted, physically abused, domestic violence, burned, you know, tried to commit suicide. I mean, it goes on and on. Someone who has been through something painful in their lives who has now turned it around and used it as a purpose, a mechanism for not just helping other people, but also creating wealth and impact for themselves. But that absolutely is rooted in authenticity. And in sharing your personal story, there’s no way to make the connection with someone who has been through sexual abuse or physical assault unless you’re willing to step up and share your story. And you know, because the first thing they’re going to say is, well, how do you know if you, have you been through this? Do you know what it’s like? Unless you’re willing to step up and share that story, it’s hard to connect and hard to resonate.

Even this morning I shared a post in my group and it was based off of a little graphic where it was like this little alien woman who was at the ironing board in the kitchen ironing her soup, which was a normal woman. And so the whole premise was that, and she was getting ready for work that she was getting ready to put on the mask and put on the suit that allowed her to be quote normal in the work environment. And it reminded me of when I was back in corporate how I was very strong, assertive, direct to the point type of person. And you know, I took action, I took initiative, I was a risk taker. A lot of things that I thought were synonymous with being a leader.

But in my performance reviews I always received the feedback that I was too direct. They wanted me to tone it down a bit. They wanted me to pull back a bit. And in fact, I received the feedback that I needed to master the art of balancing my strong traits and strong character with a softer, gentler approach, which totally POed me a lot because I felt that if I had been a man, there’s no way they would have told me to balance my strong traits with a softer, gentler approach. It felt like every day that I went into the corporate environment, I had to put the mask on. I had to play the game, I had to play the role, I had to do the dance in order to fit in, in order to get the performance ratings.

That is a story that I shared just this morning, how I felt back in my corporate life. I using that graphic to do it. So absolutely no matter what your business is, but more so of you are doing purpose driven work. I think you absolutely have to share your story because that is the way that they connect with you. That is the way that you build that resonance. That is the way that you build that trust factor where they see you as someone, she’s in my situation, she understands what is, what it’s like she understands how I feel. I see now that she has moved onto the other side, maybe she can help me.

As far as finding these people to be able to connect with your story, to be able to join your community…I wanted to talk a little bit about your philosophy around that…if you believe mostly in people finding you versus you finding people and some strategies you’ve used to build your community.

I think it’s a little bit of both. I think it gets back to you being your most authentic self. Ss you can see, I’m a talker. So I’m also a poster which goes along with that. I post a lot on my personal profile as well as in my groups that I’m in. What I’m posting is just me being, whatever’s going on in my life, whatever stories are happening, whether it’s corporate or whether it’s personal, I’m sharing my life and I’m sharing parts of me. Now that doesn’t mean my whole world is an open book, but it means that I am open to being a more vulnerable, more authentic, more open, and sharing those things with people that gives people a chance to connect with me, a chance to resonate with me, a chance to see themselves in my stories, a chance to see that she’s just like me.

And because of that, that’s going to attract them. That’s going to make them want to follow me. It’s going to make them listen to a tips that I have, advice that I have. Certainly that was the case with my other group, the bucket list beast, which is a travel and adventure group because I was out traveling and doing very adventurous activities. Activities that were more along the lines of fearless is how people perceive them and they want it to be more fearless in their own lives. So that attracted them a lot. They saw that I was doing a lot of world-class traveling. They wanted to travel a lot so that connected with them and resonated with them and made them want to follow me and join my travel adventure group. Okay. So, and it’s the same thing now with the women’s group leaving corporate, being willing to tinder my resignation on a six figure job in a five figure annual bonus, stepping away from the full benefits and working for a company that was one of the top five fortune global companies in the world, in order to step into my entrepreneurship, my dream, to live my most authentic life, to live my most purposeful and passionate life, they see that and they resonate with that as well because they would love to be able to do the same thing. They would love to be able to tend to the resignation and step into a more authentic life. Live with more joy, more purpose, more passion, more freedom, more fulfillment. So absolutely part of it is just being yourself and doing what you do and do, you will resonate with people and they will be attracted to you because of that. That’s one part of the equation. But obviously if you’re in business, you know, there’s also an element of we need to continually put ourselves out there in certain ways to attract new clients, to attract cold subscribers and cold customers and that sort of thing.

So for that, I think things like social media ads have worked well for me in terms of doing masterclasses and webinars, opt in freebies that I’ve done in the past. Also just running the ad and letting people know that this support group is here. I’ve done an ad like that and say, Hey, you know, if you want to join us, I’ve made posts like that on each of my different social media profiles. Just letting them know that we exist. You know, I talked to a lot of my people. I see a lot of people in the group as well who say, I don’t have any followers or I don’t have any fans or it’s hard for me to get sales. And you know, one of the first things I’ll ask them is, well, do people even know who you are? And do they even know what you do because you’re alerting and hiding, which so many women entrepreneurs, new entrepreneurs are prone to do there. They’re rooted in a lot of fears, doubts, and insecurity. So they pull themselves back, they hold themselves back. And I said, you don’t have a business unless you put yourself out there and allow people to see that you exist and what it is that you have to offer and how you can help them. If you don’t do that, you don’t have a business, therefore you will not be able to make the wealth that you want to make, nor create the impact in the world that you want to create. So it’s a combination of both.

Okay. There’s been a lot of great advice in general in this interview about a community and building a community. But I wanted to kind of ask you to wrap it up, what advice you would give to any entrepreneur who’s hoping to build a community around something that they’re doing? Something that they’re hoping to sell.

Okay. So first of all, and this is actually something that I do kind of talk about in my coaching program, you absolutely have to know what platform you want to be on, what social media platform and you do need to be on one. I think even if you have an offline business, you still need to have that social media component, that online component that helps to draw people to you. Especially if you want to work location independent, which is what I do and what I work with women to do that remote work that allows them to spend more time with their family, our travel, as much as they would like to, then you absolutely need to be online and have that online component. So what social media platform makes the most sense for you? You know, if you’re going to do business with uh, governments and, and other corporations, then maybe LinkedIn is where you should be.

If you are a photographer or you have something that is very visual in nature, I might travel part of my group showing where we have been, where we are going, things that we’re going to be seeing and doing. Absolutely. That lends itself more to Instagram. But if you want to build that community, that place where people can go if they need advice, if they need help or they just want to be in the midst of other people who are in the same type of situation, it absolutely lends itself to Facebook, which is the social media platform that offers that community element. So knowing where you need to be and being very clear on that and then getting that group started. But knowing very much why you are creating this group and who it is for, you absolutely have to have that description just right in terms of nailing who this group is formed.

Because that’s the first thing that people see when they consider joining a group is what, what is this group all about? Is this group going to be from me? And you have to know that description, which is based on your ideal client avatar. Who is it that you are trying to serve in the world? How do you most want to help them? That needs to be in your description. Okay. And then everything that you post in the group, everything that you do in the group needs to support them. Okay. So for me, in my group, I help corporate women create wealth and impact, live with more freedom, more joy, more fulfillment by starting their own entrepreneurial businesses. So everything that I post in the group is about that. It supports that from a business perspective, but also from a personal perspective in terms of the mindset and the transformational to behavioral transformation that they need to make in order to position themselves to move into entrepreneurship. So everything needs to support them.

Jess: Okay. I love it. Thank you so much. That’s great advice. It was a great to have you and thanks for sharing.

Sonjia: All right. Thank you for having me.