Brand strategies don’t create themselves, even though you wish they would at times. For new entrepreneurs, coming up with a brand strategy isn’t exactly easy. It’s one thing to take an existing brand, pick it apart and explain why it works…but coming up with your own branding workup isn’t always so easy. It’s much easier to work backwards than it is to work forwards.

Many new entrepreneurs looking to create their first start up make the mistake of doing the opposite — finding an existing brand, deciphering their success and trying to use these components in their own branding. It’s always best to be original — but that’s just one key tip for creating the perfect branding plan. Here are a few more to consider before putting the finishing touches on your newest branding schematics.

Understand What Branding Is

This is a common mistake new entrepreneurs make with their first business. They often think of marketing and branding as being synonymous, but they really aren’t. Branding isn’t just logos and a business’ website or slogan. These are part of a brand, but the most important aspect of branding is something intangible. It’s the essence of a business and it isn’t something you can necessarily pin down as one particular item.

A Brand Conveys Purpose

Look back on how a brand is intangible. Marketing is much more concrete in how it’s presented; from graphics to blogging content, marketing is a pitch that you can sum up quite easily. Marketing should also directly state the point you’re trying to get across. Something like “Our business can guarantee you a five percent increase in follower traffic” is directly related to marketing.

Branding, however, conveys an intangible purpose. It’s more so a “bigger picture” type of deal as compared to marketing. A brand identity puts a business in a certain position, like being formal or casual, being trend focused or best-practice following. Some business’ have brands that are more philanthropic, while others are profit-based.

Branding is Emotional

When you read a book or watch a movie, what’s playing out on the big screen or within the pages affects your brain in some way. It’s not about a direct ideological correlation — reading Romeo and Juliet won’t lead you down a naive and romantically disastrous road — but it’s instead about making you feel something. Branding works in the same way.

Except branding is supposed to lead someone to act on certain emotions. It plans an idea in someone’s head in a way that doesn’t require reason or numbers. A good branding strategy injects a business with an emotional edge that plays to a consumer’s feelings. Branding should make people feel like they belong, like they matter and like they feel connected to a business.

When you consider the emotional aspect of branding, what purpose your branding truly has and understand what branding really is, you’re on your way to a truly killer branding strategy.

A lot of vacation time happens during the latter half of the year. There’s the summertime, Thanksgiving, Christmas or other holidays, New Year’s Eve…then the vacation days slow down once the next year rolls around again. It’s not longer about taking a few days off at a time, or even weeks at a time, but instead a day here and there.

That is, until spring break rolls around. Spring break can be a time for anyone to take off and enjoy the warmth of spring, from college students to entrepreneurs who just want to take some well-deserved “me time.” However, spring break shouldn’t be about partying and other irresponsible activities. Instead, consider spending some time reflecting during a nature-based vacation where you’re totally at peace.

Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica

If you want a mixture of fun and nature, Costa Rica is the country for you. Tamarindo is a tropical location that has amazing beaches, great nightlife locations and other outdoorsy fun activities. Costa Rica has the added benefit of being rather small, so you can come for Tamarindo and stay for other inland cities that also contain great activities. If you’re indeed a nature lover, visit one of their parks and see the country’s bird and butterfly species. The country is home to the famed Blue Morpho butterfly, a must-see for anyone interested in bugs.

Denali National Park, Alaska

While Alaska may be quite a ways away, Denali National Park is certainly worth the trip. Alaska is perhaps where you can find a true look at wilderness up close. For most of us, the scenery of Alaska is unlike any we’ve seen in the continental United States, so the imagery alone is enough to visit for. Park-goers can be dropped into the tundra via a helicopter, hike through the Alaskan wilderness and encounter amazing creatures while there.

Asheville, North Carolina

Another town perfect for anyone who likes a little responsible fun with a nature twist, Asheville is simultaneously home to a plethora of breweries and is a gateway town to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tourists both national and international flock to the city every year during spring break to take in the local culture and hike through the mountains. Other popular activities include horseback riding, animal watching and mountain biking. While on your hike, it’s possible you’ll see creatures like elk or the American black bear.

Big Island, Hawaii

Many don’t know that Hawaii isn’t just the name of the only island state in the U.S. — it’s also the name of the state’s biggest island! Known as Big Island, the largest portion of the state is home to amazing natural wonders, like the volcanic coast of Kona. A must-do activity when visiting Big Island is snorkeling — snorkelers have the chance to see and dive with manta rays and other oceanic sea life. There are island tours constantly ready to take tourists around the large island to see all of the incredible sights. If you want to relax while surrounded by true beauty on your spring break vacation, this may be the option for you.

A wonderful talk with Meiyoko Taylor – an Internationally recognized author, speaker and personal development leader. In this episode, we discuss one of the most common factors that hold us back – FEAR!

Meiyoko works extensively with people from all across the world, showing them how to take control of their life, find their passion, and unlock the greatness that is within. With his new book, “Find Your Amazing- 5 Steps to Transforming your life”, Meiyoko continues helps people unlock their true potential and create their own version of success, firmly believing that “When your passion, purpose, and talents are in alignment something “amazing” has to happen”. Follow on Twitter @MeiyokoTaylor.

It’s a well known fact that cardio-centric exercises should be a part of every workout routine, but do we truly know why cardio is so good for us? There are some obvious standard lines of thought you likely go to, like “it can help me lose weight” or “it’ll help tone my body,” but cardio exercise is much more than a diet supplement. Cardio activities can help to lower stress, strengthen your heart and lungs, help promote better sleeping habits, relieve anxiety and depression symptoms and reduce the chances of heart disease and cancer.

What if that’s not what’s really holding you back from cardio, though? You know the benefits, but you just don’t have time for lots of running or going to the gym for fitness training. The good news is that cardio exercises are actually quite simple, which makes them easy to do every single day — whether you’ve got 15 minutes of time to spare or a full hour.

These four cardiovascular activities are easy to do, don’t require lots of equipment and don’t take up much time. Do as many or as few as you can and you’ll still be on the right track to heart health and a slimmer waist.

Aerobics

The best thing about aerobics is that as long as you aren’t incorrectly stimulating your muscles, there aren’t many rules. In general, aerobics is simply movement that gets your heart pumping continuously, and there are a variety of ways to make that happen. Something like dancing can be considered an aerobic exercise, or step aerobics if you want something more simple. The point is that 15 minutes of continuous movement that gets your pulse elevated can be considered a cardio workout.

Kickboxing

Kickboxing is best done in a classroom environment, but the beauty of the Internet is that you can learn pretty much anything online. Find some credible workout videos on a fitness site or YouTube and get to practicing! Kickboxing is an excellent form of exercise that can tighten your core, build up your upper body strength and can be used as self-defense in sticky situations.

Jumping Rope

Remember that playground game you used to love as a little girl in school? There’s no age limit to jumping rope, especially considering how great it is for your health. Put on some music and get on a flat, outside surface. No need to get fancy and play Double Dutch — just have fun jumping for a few minutes at a time. You’ll be amazed by how invigorating it actually is!

High Knees

You can get all of the cardio benefits of running while you stay inside — and in the same place! High knees only require that you lift your legs up as high as they can go while jogging in place. This exercise helps with flexibility, heart stimulation and builds up your leg muscles. It can be exhausting, but the long term results are well worth it.

5 Must Read Books for the Busy Entrepreneur

by Keetria on March 8, 2017

Reading shouldn’t be something that you give up because you’re an entrepreneur on the go. Sometimes we get so busy that we leave behind hobbies that we feel take up too much time, like going to the movies or reading. You may not be able to squeeze in the romance or spy novels that you used to love, but if you don’t want to lose the spark of love for reading, consider opening the pages of these five books about useful and entrepreneurial topics.

“Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” – Timothy Ferriss

This book is a long read, but it’s well worth setting aside the time. If you want a crash course on how to be insanely productive, buy this book and read it cover to cover again and again. Strategist and podcaster Tim Ferriss shares the productivity secrets he’s learned during his time interviewing entrepreneurs, and this book contains more than 200 different interviewees from “The Tim Ferriss Show.” Ferriss ensures that all of the insider tips have been applied to his own life, and they’re certainly tried and true.

“Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble” – Dan Lyons

A delightfully entertaining read, Dan Lyons has written a book about moving from his job as a journalist to a position at software marketing startup — HubSpot. This hilarious and insightful look at entrepreneurship and the inner workings of a startup company can both bring a smile to your face and make you reconsider where your life is going.

“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” – Adam Grant

Our world isn’t dictated by those who keep going down the same old roads over and over again. The roads less traveled are the ones that contain the most beauty, and this is true for entrepreneurs who come up with new ideas. Adam Grant takes readers on a trip through how modern leaders can break the mold and truly explore the world as an innovator and creative, not a follower who sticks to the safer methods.

“The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms”

Founder of MindValley, Vishen Lakhiani knows a lot about life and how the mind works. In his book, Lakhiani flips the script on everywhere we know in his world — life, love, work and more. The book explores how our thought processes are are driven by rules, generational thoughts and old concepts of what success really is. This book isn’t just about changing how you think about business, but also how you think about societal constructs in general.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” – Daniel Kahneman

This is an “oldie but goodie” volume that any and all entrepreneurs should have on their shelves. Daniel Kahneman’s award winning book explores the two systems that make our minds work — one is fast and emotional, the other is slower and more logical. As a psychologist, Kahneman explores how both of these mind center’s shape our everyday judgements and how they apply to our lives in a entrepreneurial context.

Don’t miss this episode! Online entrepreneur, author, and speaker Lakia Robinson drops in to talk about her thriving business concept, the #PrayPlanHustle initiative, her new book: The Truth about Ugly Women, I Want Beauty Within, how she stays motivated and her future plans. You can follow her on Twitter @LakiaInspires.

4 Motivation Crutches and How to Avoid Them

by Keetria on February 28, 2017

Self-activation is the art of self-motivation. When you’re self-activating, you don’t need any sort of outside reward or stimuli to get you going. For instance, saying “if I succeed I’ll eat one of those cookies that I usually save for diet cheat days” isn’t being self-activating — there is a reward put in front of you in order to move you forward.

Within that example, that cookie is a motivational crutch. When we find that we’re only allowing ourselves to be motivated because of an outside stimulus or other source outside of ourself, we’re falling victim to relying on something that might be unhealthy or that won’t always work in order to finally succeed.

Here are four common motivation crutches and how to avoid using them while still coming out on top.

Food and Unhealthy Rewards

Many professionals find themselves using food as a reward. While treating yourself isn’t inherently bad, studies have even shown that using food as a reward creates unhealthy eating habits within ourselves. It’s okay to say “I’ve worked hard so I’ll have a night out on the town,” but using food as a consistent motivational tool isn’t a good idea.

The Praise of Others

How often have you done something well just to hope to receive praise from someone? When you’re a child and your id and ego are developing around how others (namely parents and guardians) see you, thus developing your self esteem, it’s perfectly alright to feel like the approval of others is an immense motivator.

However, a professional adult should only concern themselves with the approval of others as a way of keeping their job. Focusing heavily on outside criticism creates an environment where the opinion of another person is unreliable, and therefore a person’s ability to motivate themselves is also unreliable.

Apps and Planners

Applications and planners designed to help you go through your to-do list are great for those starting out on a productivity journey. However, these should be like training wheels — the idea is to one day get rid of them in order to move onto that big kid’s bike.

Note that it’s perfectly okay to stay organized via an app or a planner, but many people look at motivation through the lens of clearing off a checklist, not actually absorbing experiences and doing tasks to the best of their ability.

Punishment

Sometimes motivation comes in the form of a negative — the stick matters more to someone than a carrot being dangled in front of them. Someone who uses procrastination as a motivational crutch will put something off until the very last minute, using that added panic and urgency to help them get the job done.

Others use punishment more literally, using the idea that they won’t get something or will be reprimanded as a means of working towards success. This sort of mental masochism isn’t healthy, and it often leads to more stress and mental health problems than necessary.

When we practice self-activation methods, we avoid these crutches. The best way to motivate yourself to rely only on yourself and understand that you can do it with no outside help. You’ve got this, and that’s all you need to succeed.

Branding isn’t easy. Some assume that it’s just slapping a logo onto a product and calling it a day, but so much more goes into creating a brand. A brand is a company or a person’s personality made marketable and/or tangible. When you create a new business and need to work on branding, you’re crafting a very human aspect of a business and then figuring out how that human aspect appeals to an audience.

Because branding takes experience to truly get right, new entrepreneurs can easily fall into branding traps and make rookie mistakes. Seasoned entrepreneurs can easily make branding mistakes, so how can newbies avoid these pratfalls?

The key to avoiding mistakes is knowing what they are. While branding holds a lot of mistakes specific to the brand in question, there are a variety of general mistakes that they should know about and avoid.

Going Over the Top

New entrepreneurs and small business owners have a tendency to want to go big or go home. Remember that when you’re first starting out with a business, this is your most vulnerable time — especially financially. It’s a good idea to be willing to invest a generous amount into your branding, but there’s a difference between spending a lot and creatively coming up with a lot.

A brand shouldn’t be complicated. Going all out and creating complicated branding schemas can be very detrimental to brand success, especially when the business in question is newer. Spend money, but spend money on something you think will work.

Non-Digital Integration

Some businesses have a very online presence, and that’s where they perform best. Online marketing and branding are very popular because they reach larger audiences and are often cheaper than non-digital options. However, this doesn’t mean non-digital options should be ignored.

If you have a business that has the potential to exist outside of the Internet, don’t let this possibility pass you by. Even if it’s something as simple as buying business cards with your business URL on them, invest in some sort of tangible, “IRL” branding mechanism.

Taking the Next Step

Many brands start out with a bang but end with a fizzle. Branding isn’t something that’s a one and done operation — it takes maintenance. Many early businesses make the mistake of considering branding to be something they do once and sprinkle throughout their marketing strategies, but this is completely inaccurate. Make sure to keep working with your branding, even after the initial brand launch.

Not Paying Attention to Analytics

Online branding is something that should be paid attention to in the context of analytics. If you send out a tweet that’s relevant to your branding strategy, assess how well that tweet is doing. How many interactions does it have? What’s the retweet to interaction ratio?

Paying attention to branding analytics is one of the easiest ways to tell whether or not what you’re doing is succeeding or failing miserably, or even somewhere in between. Whether you use free analytics resources provided by social media and Google, or you pay for your analytics tools, one thing is for certain — analytic data is necessary for branding success.

No one is ever entirely free of stress…or are they?

Stress is something that we consider as a standard in life. Sometimes stress is more dire than it is simple. We stress as teens studying hard for tests and as adults stressing over how much money we need to make to break even. Stress creates a very cluttered mental space, which then begins to impact other areas of life, like productivity and health. In short, stress is something that we don’t want but that seems almost inevitable, especially as professionals.

This is where mindfulness comes in. You may have heard the term in passing, but are you familiar with what it is and what it can do for you?

What is Mindfulness?

To keep things simple, mindfulness is being very aware of the world around you on a moment-by-moment basis, as well as accepting it simultaneously. People assume that this is simple — aren’t we all already living and experiencing every moment of our lives? Experiencing something and actually being 100% aware of it, however, are two different things.

While it’s true that we are physically present for all of our lives, we aren’t always mentally present. The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness, or essentially running on autopilot. Many people don’t fully understand how much of their life is spent lost in thought, avoiding outside stimulus.

Say that you’re walking down a busy city street. What are you doing? Are you keeping your thoughts to yourself, running through your daily to-do list? Are you listening to music from earbuds, lost in the sound and not paying full attention to the world around you? Both are examples of clogging our minds with something in order to avoid being cognizant. Someone who has embraced mindfulness is fully living in that moment, noticing things and taking them in.

What Can Mindfulness do for You?

Mindfulness is often associated with total positivity; it’s something written off as a new age, existentialist way of avoiding life’s problems. However, it’s exactly the opposite.

Let’s look at stress and mindfulness. When someone who is used to mindlessness is confronted with stress, the negative emotion and thoughts of the future cloud their vision. Anxiety gets in the way of productivity. Someone who is mindful, however, fully accepts the stressful stimuli and then formulates a plan based on their acceptance of their current predicament.

Practicing mindfulness can help reduce the harmful repercussions of stress, like panic and anxiety. Realize that stress is a state of being, an emotion — it isn’t a situation itself. When someone is mindful, they don’t experience stress because they experience a situation, not the harmful emotional side effect that comes with it.

Thus, mindfulness is growing in popularity as a way to increase productivity. When we are mindful of our surroundings, our emotional state and what we must do, we are much more likely to seize the day and get things done with no negativity involved.

I had a great time speaking with the very talented Nkenge in this latest episode. We discuss Nkenge’s musical background, his passion for creating new material, his single and upcoming album. We also talk about how he’s taken his career into his hands and created opportunities for himself.

You can check out his single “Wayment” on Spotify or connect with him on Twitter @nkenge1xmusic