Since starting Un'ruly, a site dedicated to Black hair, in January of this year, I fell in love with all the natural hair gurus out there, especially the ones who have been reviewing and "how-to-ing" for years and have racked up millions and millions of channel views on YouTube and hundreds of thousands of subscribers. I love that a lot of these women have been able to monetize their efforts, which is why I launched the Un'ruly Media Network late this year. As an advertising executive turned Black hair blogger, I realized Black women are a widely overlooked yet, highly profitable consumer segment that more brands should be trying to cater to. At the same time, I realized that there are several remarkable women in the digital universe that have worked really hard to build large devoted audiences. So I wanted to bridge that gap.
In the process, I've gained a strong admiration for bloggers and vloggers that are creating very helpful and entertaining beauty content. They're getting a piece of a tremendously big pie that had previously only been reserved for huge multinationals like L'Oreal, wide-reaching television networks and mainstream beauty magazines. These beauty vloggers are all walking down a path of not only self-sufficiency, but also of creating your own opportunity. They exemplify being self-empowered as well as consistently and persistently working on something until it pays off. Their influence is more valuable than say the influence of an Oprah or a Beyoncé because the millions of people watching them are more likely to identify with them, as they create videos in their bedrooms, using iPhone cameras and iMovie. They don't have whole teams supporting them like celebrities do.
I've been a fan of one particular natural hair vlogger, Taren Guy, for a little under a year now. Guy began vlogging about her natural hair journey in June 2009 and has since continued, creating videos that cover a wide range of hair topics, as well as general issues facing women. She even does her part to help spread awareness about autism. To date, Guy has over 179,000 YouTube subscribers and over 18 million channel views. What's more, this year she set off on an ambitious tour around the U.S., teaching women how to "Luv and Learn Their Hair." When I heard of the tour earlier this year, I immediately assumed a major hair brand had partnered with her to launch it. But Guy released a video just last week, sharing her story of how the tour came about. It's a 15 minute video but contains a lot of great advice for pushing past where you currently are to get somewhere a little (or a lot) further.
Here are five things we can all learn from Guy's experience.
1. Don't WaitAt the beginning of this year, Guy had tinkered with the idea of taking her meet and greet (previously only held in New York) to other cities. She at first thought that it could only be done with a major sponsor backing her but then resolutely decided to go on tour with or without a sponsor. How she would do it wasn't fleshed out at the time, but she wasn't going to sit back and wait for an opportunity to come her way. She would make it happen.
2. Announce What You WantFollowing her decision to go on tour, the charming beauty vlogger, announced to her thousands of dedicated fans and followers that she'd be coming to a city near them. Doing so made her publicly accountable. Kanye West shared the same sentiment in his book Thank You and You're Welcome. Public opinion can make you accountable.
3. Invest in YourselfWhen she started the tour Guy had zero sponsors, so she held the first events herself. In her video Guy says, "The first two events: out of my pocket, no profit." She doesn't explain exactly how the first sponsor learned of her tour but I wouldn't be surprised if they learned of it from the success of the first events. In the video she also says,"the backing comes along when the success rolls in and it's something that you're doing on your own." A human tendency that we've been seeing proof of over and over again thanks to crowd funding site KickStater (and TV show, Shark Tank), is that people like to attach themselves to winners. The best way to get outside support is to do what you can to prove the value in whatever it is you're doing.
4. Don't Let Negative Results Hold You BackGuy's first couple events didn't necessarily go smoothly. The venue was too small and too many people had RSVP'd. (A good problem to have.) Several attendees, or rather, people who RSPV'd but couldn't attend because of limited space, posted negative reviews about the experience. Referring to the reviews, Guy says, "that alone... could have just shut me down and totally discouraged me from moving forward..." but she didn't let it stop her. She held another event that went much smoother and ultimately led to her setting her sights on holding a total of 10 events in various cities.
5. Don't Worry if Everything isn't Figured Out YetAfter her first event, Guy landed a sponsor for three of the ten meet ups she was planning. As the second sponsored event came to a close she still hadn't secured a sponsor for the remaining. But the buzz Guy was building from previous events likely played a role in her securing sponsors for the next three events, albeit at the last minute. Guy advises, "take things step by step. As you take things step by step, you're automatically ready for the next step." A lot of us aren't comfortable swimming in unknown waters, but when you're in that kind of a situation, sometimes your only choice is to look at what is immediately in front of you and tackle that first before trying to peer beyond the horizon.
Taren Guy held seven out of the ten hair meet ups she planned on holding. Although it was three less than she had initially hoped for, it was one multi-city tour that she had never done before. She proved to herself and her fans that she can in fact do whatever she puts her mind to and she urges us to just get going. To just do it and not let fear or failure or no's hold us back. Next year she plans to take the tour international.
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