One On One With Successful Entrepreneur Cynthia Johnson

Cynthia Johnson - Headshot

Cynthia Johnson is an entrepreneur, marketing professional, author and international speaker. She previously worked as a receptionist at an acting agency; she was also a server at Tender Greens and The Cheesecake Factory and she was even an event planner in Las Vegas. When she turned 25, she decided to sell all her things to find a new meaning in life through travelling the world. It was through her adventures across Asia and Australia, where she eventually found her niche skill in storytelling and helping others with marketing strategies and creating their brand image.

Fast forward to today, and now she’s a business advisor, keynote speaker, and CEO of a successful agency (Bell + Ivy) as well as an author. She is an Advisory Board member for The Millennium Alliance and GetGlobal which are leading technology, business, and educational advisory event companies serving fortune 1000 executives. She has been involved in campaigns for Outerknown, HereMedia, West Management, Chevy’s, PETA, and several other leading brands. She is also a contributing columnist to Entrepreneur, Success, Forbes, and several other industry-specific publications. Her first book will be published in early 2019 by Penguin Random House.

StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Cynthia to find out more about her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down.

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I never really did anything the same way others did so my entrepreneurial journey is a bit of a rollercoaster. However, though my journey separates myself from others who took a more conventional route, I can proudly say that I’m a prime example of not really knowing what I wanted to do, to finding my “calling” when I was most vulnerable. Before co-finding Bell + Ivy, a digital marketing and personal branding agency in Santa Monica, CA with my co-founder Zach Binder, I worked as a receptionist at an acting agency, was a server at Tender Greens and The Cheesecake Factory, an event planner in Vegas, and digital marketing director for a rehab center. At 25 I decided to sell all my things and turned to find a new meaning in life through traveling the world. It was through my adventures across Asia and Australia, where I eventually found my niche skill in storytelling and helping others with marketing strategies and creating their brand image. Sometimes as a form of currency, I would share my knowledge in the communications field for room and board and made countless friends along the way. I then started speaking at more events, joining more panels and began moderating discussions. Bell + Ivy was created through the magical discovery of passion and persistence of just living and letting life take its course. Today, I am a business advisor, keynote speaker, CEO of a great agency and an author. I am honored to have been listed by Inc. Magazine as a top digital marketing person to follow, top 50 marketers on SnapChat by Mashable and top female entrepreneurs that inspire by Darling Magazine.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

We constantly strive to uphold Bell + Ivy’s brand to the same, utmost quality, as we deliver to our clients. With the tools of digital marketing, personal branding, and storytelling, our office is comprised of the boldest and the brightest who not only deliver these aspects professionally but also in their personal lives, reflecting the power and stamina of our agency. We are humbled to say that we are in a place where a lot of business comes to us and we then get to choose who and what is the best fit at the time. Shoot us a message – our doors, and inboxes, are always open!

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

Storytelling using digital marketing, of course. Business owners and marketers should focus their social media efforts on creating a cohesive community with their followers and to improve the interoperability of information between all their channels. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have such a massive following and the potential to be an impressive channel to sell and promote a product, message and/or brand. Relatable, relevant and timely content throughout these platforms will create a genuine community of followers that enhances their brand identity which then creates more brand loyalty.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

Again, storytelling. Never underestimate the power of telling an impactful story to the right audience and at the right time. When you know exactly who you’re working with and how to proliferate influence, you’re golden.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

Setting a wedding date and then coordinating everything that goes into the wedding. Nobody warns you about this kind of stuff!

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

I wouldn’t say this is a mistake but more something to be aware of money. Money is a tricky subject, and yes, money helps when first creating a business. However, you decided to start a business, and that is an investment. Therefore, you must wholeheartedly invest in your company and your team and provide the necessary tools and resources to best equip your team to produce the best work they can. It’ll be worth the investment and the opportunity cost is exponential!

What new business would you love to start?

If I told you, I’d have to kill you! Totally joking of course. However, I do have some ideas up my sleeves that I can’t share quite yet. It’s a secret for now but stay tuned for more.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

Absolutely nothing. Getting lost and being vulnerable in my early 20’s is how I got to be where I am today. Sounds cliche but it’s true. But if I had to choose, maybe stay in China longer? China is an incredible country with so much to offer. However, as an international speaker, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to travel, to countries like China, and experience work and play.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

Drink less coffee and start drinking more tea.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

Plenty! “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” by Mark Manson, is a classic, “Leaders Eat Last,” by Simon Sinek, and “Talking to Crazy,” by Mark Goulston. These three selections are actually from my book club, where we dissect each book to fully understand the meaning and how it can impact our daily professional lives in a positive way. Join the conversation, today!

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Just try it – what’s the worst that can happen? If you fail, that’s okay. If you fail again, that’s also okay. But next time, fail better.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

No matter how much you think you can handle everything on your own, you can’t and you won’t; and that’s 100% okay. Be realistic, stay optimistic and ask for help when you need it. Do research online, engage with your community and see who could bring value to your team. You’re going to want to do it all by yourself, but at the end of the day, the best way a company can grow is through steller leadership and a transparent team.

One On One Interview With Nicole: The CEO Of ROF Industries Inc

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Nicole started her career in printing 15 years ago with her father, a legend in the printing industry, Robert Pittman. She began her career at Trend Offset Printing, was Executive Vice President of SMP Inc. and is now President and CEO of ROF Industries Inc. – a company that provides video production, photography, and printing services. She helps clients achieve their goals with various marketing platforms. She started her current business in 2013, and their sales have grown to numbers she never imagined.

StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Nicole to find out more about her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down.

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I learned about business from my father, who was an entrepreneur. I was lucky enough to work with him for 12 years before starting a business with my husband, Chris. My Dad taught me to always focus on marketing and sales. You can have the best product/ service in the world, but if no one knows about it, it won’t do you much good. While working with him, I also had a side business that specialized in photography.

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

My journey has had highs and lows, like everyone I’m sure. I started my current business in 2013, and our sales have grown to numbers I never imagined. When I was in my early 20’s, I felt too young and inexperienced to have much confidence in my sales ability. After many years, I have learned that people buy from who they like and if you are your true self, people will buy from you. When my clients see that I really care about helping them and their business, a true relationship begins.

What is your main source of income?

Our primary source of income is from our video production, photography, and printing services. We help clients achieve their goals with various marketing platforms.

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What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

Some may say it’s dead, but for me old fashioned cold calling has worked wonders. Recently I’ve had a lot of luck sending customized video emails. For me, happy clients have always led to repeat business and referrals, which have both been the key to our success.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

I believe our brand has stood out because my business partner/ husband Chris is amazing at what he does. Video production is his true passion, and you can see it in his videos. Clients are always so impressed with what Chris can accomplish. He is so easy to work with and tailors each video to fit our client’s specific brand/ style.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

The decision to redesign our website. We are still finalizing the details, but it was hard to make such a big change. When we first started our company we weren’t 100% sure who our main client would be. Now we know the majority of our clients are corporate and our website needs to reflect that. It was a big decision for us but important to change.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

Before hiring anyone to help with SEO and social media, be sure to do your homework. Many companies promise huge rewards and then don’t deliver. I have learned to be more selective with many of my vendors.

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What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?

Always trust your gut. Sometimes when you want something or like someone you will try to con yourself into decisions, even though your gut is warning you. Don’t ignore it.

What new business would you love to start?

I have a real passion for travel. I would love to create a business that focuses on how to travel to unique locations with children. We have taken our kids to unique locations like Galapagos, Costa Rica, Ireland, Norway and Turks & Caicos. We have learned so much from our travels.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

I wouldn’t have spent so much time on small dollar ideas. I would’ve focused on larger, corporate clients and longterm contracts.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

Have more confidence in your abilities! Trust when others tell you how much they love working with you. Fight that negative voice inside your head that tries to hold you back. We all have it; the key is to tell it to go away.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

“The Sell” by Fredrik Eklund, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, PH.D. and Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Try to live in the now. It’s easy to regret things in the past and worry about the future but make sure you’re not missing the amazing things that are happening right in front of you. Take time to stop and focus on the positive things happening at this exact moment, no matter how small they might seem.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Find a mentor to help you along the way. Be ready to work extremely hard. When you own your own business, it is constantly on your mind. You never really check out. That’s why travel can be so important to help you focus on something other than your business.

One On One With Millionaire Entrepreneur: Ilene Davis

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Ilene Davis put herself through college and eventually received a degree in Math in 1971. For several years after graduation, she worked as a mathematician then she got married and worked in her husband’s business. She became a stockbroker in 1982 and ended up opening her own office in 1986 when the broker she worked for had significant ethical issues. Fast forward to today, her current net worth is sitting at a cool $4 million.

We recently caught up with Ilene Davis and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started making money?

I received a degree in Math in 1971. I actually put myself through college and started saving even then. By graduation, I had enough to buy myself a car. Once graduated, I worked to save enough in a couple of years to take a two month trip to Europe before I seriously got down to working for the future. For several years after graduation, I worked as a mathematician. Then got married and worked in my husband’s business. During that time I also earned a degree in Accounting, went to another company for several years until an opportunity came along (1982) to become a stockbroker. Having been investing for years, that was my true passion (and still is).

How did you get started in business? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

I became a stockbroker (which is really a personal business even if you work for a Wirehouse because you are strictly on commission) in 1982 and opened my own office in 1986 when the broker I worked for had major ethical issues. As for imagining if I would become this successful financially: my first goal was to get to $1 million. Then to $2 million. Once I reached $2 million in investments, I continued to invest. Much of the wealth comes from those initial millions “doing their thing.”

What is your primary source of income?

I don’t really count my investment income because it remains invested, so my primary source of income is commissioning from being a financial professional.

Would you be willing to tell us your current net worth? How did you accumulate your net worth?

It hit $4 million before the recent market drop, but I expect it will be up and down for a while. I accumulated it by doing what I tell clients. Invest a portion of your income and leave it working.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your net worth?

I maximize my solo-K each year and otherwise do some trading but mostly leave the management to the mutual fund companies that I invest in and leave my own stocks to ride, sometimes buying on dips and then writing options to generate extra income.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

The only thing of any challenge was last year when the Obama administration “Fiduciary Rule” was implemented and I asked clients if they were willing to stick with me if I stuck to a commission because the math I did said THAT was in their best interests, not fee-based. Fortunately, Trump won, and I’ve had a wonderful year.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

PLAYING the market instead of investing long-term. I sold my Microsoft stocks too soon (I call that my $2 million loss), same with AOL. I still see stocks I owned years ago that have gone up significantly, but I really can’t complain. My other mistake was trusting a friend with a loan. Now I’m working to at least write it off as a loss.

What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?

The key, as Warren Buffet said, is time IN the market, not time OF the market. And to have a plan, don’t worry about what others THINK you should do. I tell clients the most expensive thing they can buy is “friendship”. Be happy with who you are, find contentment, even happiness, in living within your budget and building wealth. Believe you are worthy of being wealthy so you don’t sabotage yourself.

What new business would you love to start?

Already working with a new partner (with similar ethical perspective) on wealthliteracyinstitute.com and choosingwealth.com. My goal is to teach financial literacy and provide a tool that virtually anyone can use to create a path to wealth.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

I would have gotten my CPA and done more networking.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

I have DOZENS: Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) / Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach) / The richest man in babylon (George Clason) / The Millionaire Next Door (Dr. Thomas Stanley) / The Millionaire Mind / Stop acting rich and start living like a real millionaire / The E Myth Revisited / Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth / my own book “Wealthy by Choice: Choosing your way to a wealthier future” / 10 Distinctions between Millionaires and the middle class / Think like a Billionaire (Donald Trump) / The Purple Cow / any of Tom Peters Books / Any of the Spencer Johnson or Ken Blanchard (particularly “the One minute Manager”) and DOZENS more.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

You can do anything you set your mind to if you are willing to work for it (my dad, and mom)

5 Tips for Starting and Succeeding in Your Own Business

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image via Shutterstock / Gyorgy Barna

Let’s face it; people these days are constantly trying to find ways to take themselves out from the rat race of employment. More and more people now are seriously considering opening a business rather than staying employed all their lives – and I bet you are one of them.

Here’s the thing though, wanting to start a business is completely different from actually starting one. So to help you get started in your journey to entrepreneurship, here are five simple yet clever tips to help you thrive in your own business:

Know your prospective customers’ needs

In identifying which business to put up, you have to ask the question “what do they need that I can offer?” By asking this, you automatically know if you have possible clients who will take advantage of your products or services. Let your hobby make money. Do you have an exceptional knack for crocheting? Do you bake the best cookies in the neighbourhood? Are you remarkably skilled in Taekwondo and can teach children? If it’s a yes, then you might have just found the perfect business venture for you.

Finding the right business for you is crucial to its success

Just like choosing the best prom dress, a business investment must be a perfect fit. You will need to have the skills, knowledge and the motivation to grow and develop it. When you do something that personally involves you, you will give it your best, and almost always, the result will be positive. Examine yourself and assess what talents and skills you have which will aid you in choosing the business of your dreams.

Start small

Most people engage in business in order to improve their way of life, and maybe keep a million dollars in their savings account. And though the idea of making a lot of money maybe tempting, zeroing your certificate of deposit to fund your wonderfully crafted idea of a business may not be the best move. Like anything else in life, business is still a gamble. There are a lot of factors at play, and making huge investments in something you are not 200% sure off is not the way to go. So, start small. If you are planning to set up a boutique, it might be better to set up an online shop first (which is really a trend right now). You can cut some of the cost from starting an actual store and also build a line of loyal customers.

Do your research

What is the age bracket of your target customers? Are there a lot of them in the area where you plan to set up your small company? How many competitors will you have in your chosen location? How accessible is your business site?

These are just a few of the things that you will need to look into so you can project how well your prospect business will fare. Distinguishing these things will help you devise ways to sell your products and services. It will also help you decide if your business is worth investing in or not.

Draft a business plan

With so many things to consider, putting up a business can be confusing and nerve-wracking. That is why it is critical to draft a business plan so you can clearly see where you are going in your investment.

Think of your business goals as a treasure, and the business plan is the map to help you get to it. You will have a better picture of the things that you need to do to get to where you want your business to be.