Join me as I have a chat with Vivian Olodun, a successful serial entrepreneur, micro-influencer, author and co-founder of Flourish Media, a boutique marketing firm that has grown to over 6-figures in less than two years. Her nonprofit Behind The Leaf hosts Flourish Media Conference annually in Miami, Florida.
Learn in this episode of Hack Your Online Business how Vivian Olodun turned her life experience into a self-published book, Stumbling Through Adulthood. Find out how becoming an author has also helped Vivian grow her online business, and learn how you too can start self-publishing on Amazon.
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Chrys: On this episode, we're going to be talking about the benefits of writing a book and being a self-published author. Today's guest is the co-founder of Flourish Media, a boutique marketing firm, and the host of Flourish Media conference, which was an annual event presented by her non-profit Behind The Leaf where she introduces women business owners to willing angel investors for up to millions in funding. She's also the author of Stumbling Through Adulthood, a guided journey fulfilling forward.
So here's my guest, Vivian Olodun. Vivian, thank you so much for jumping on this episode with me today.
Vivian: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here with you and hello everyone who's listening to us out there. You are in for a treat.
Chrys: You are in for a treat indeed. Vivian, I had Dr. Tracy Timberlake who is your co-founder of Flourish Media on my show as well - episode number 65. How do you and Dr. Tracy meet?
Vivian: Dr. Tracy is one of my business besties and I'm so happy to be able to do business with her. The way that we met was I was the marketing director for Coldwell banker, which is a luxury real estate company and I was giving tips every Wednesday. I had a whole forum called wisdom Wednesday where I gave tips on marketing and how to sell luxury items. And inside of that workshop, I would send an email to my audience, to all of my real estate agents, and I started to include a video. And in that video I would just sitting at my desk and I'd just use my iPad mini and I was recording myself.
Another one of our business friends said to me, hey, there's this girl, her name is Tracy Timberlake and I think she can teach you how to make nicer videos. So with kindness and love, I went to Google it and I went and found Tracy Timberlake and I purchased her course. She had a course at the time called from nameless to famous and it was how to use video and how to make professional looking videos and I purchased it. And then when I bought it, I started using it and they came with a private Facebook group and I was able to talk to her. I realized that we live both live in Miami, Florida. I said, Hey, would you want to meet up? We did. And that was four years ago now.
Chrys: So how did you guys go from you taking a course to let's start a company together? And I know you have a third co-founder as well.
Vivian: Yes, Sasha Revolus. She is a co-founder for Flourish Media conference. So what happened was Sasha and I were already working on putting together a conference for women business owners and we had approached our existing existing clients and asked them if there was an opportunity for you to help women in business, would you do it? And they say yes. At the end of the day, after we brought in Tracy, we were able to get up to $15 million in funding that was available through angel investors for women business owners.
We came together to do the conference but what we found out was that we did not have a business. We had no business at the time, it's just that I had a service, which was my top level service in my consulting company that was called the flourish package. I think that's a great name, we should just call it the Flourish, and it's media cause of Dr. Tracy, because of her being a YouTube star and earning all of this money online and us talking about presenting yourself properly to investors. So Flourish Media and then conference!
Chrys: That's a smart way to start a company. You're just like, oh wait a minute.
Vivian: Well, what happened was after we did the conference and the ladies who attended... Because we started from nothing, we had 78 attendees to that conference, using only online marketing. And with that conference a lot of the attendees said we want to be able to operate like a big business. We want to be able to have live activations, we want to incorporate digital marketing and sales funnels and we want to have more professional looking graphics and things like that.
And we started the company after the conference because of the ladies requesting the services, and it just made sense because each one of us had specialized skills that when you put it together, it's a perfect type of marketing and positioning for an emerging brand. So that's what happened.
Chrys: That's interesting. So the conference came first and then the media company came in later. I thought it was the other way round because that's how people usually do it, right? You first start a company or a brand of some sorts, and then later on you start conference.
So you said the first time you ran it, it was 78 people. And now I know you have a lot of people going to that conference. I'm just wondering what were some of the challenges of running a conference, especially in the early years? Because I know it's tough to run a conference.
Vivian: Oh yeah, the very first thing that we did, and we did it the right way, was that we sought after help. We went and got help from someone who was doing it before. I did say that Sasha and I were looking at hosting a conference and the reason why is that we attended a bloggers conference in D.C and it called blogging while brown. So it leans toward people of Asian descent, Hispanic descent, minority stories, and immigration stories.
In that conference, the owner of that conference, we pulled her aside and we said, hey, we want to do something like this but we want to do it in Miami. We were in D.C. at the time and she sold us her entire package on how to have a conference and that came with a number. It's like as if we franchise out her conference, but then after talking to us and understanding where we wanted to take things and how it could grow, she suggested that we change the name and that we operate it as our own new fresh entity.
And it was her advice that told us to focus on the quality of the content. Do not let your ego get in the way, she said that all the time. Don't try and go into the largest, nicest hotel. Don't try and give people all of these things in gift bags. Don't try and get the flashy speakers. Focus on the quality of the information so that when people leave the conference, they are leaving with useful actionable steps.
And we leaned into that advice and we've kept that advice every year and that's how we've been able to grow, we're walking into our fourth year now.
Chrys: So you guys have this conference, it's once a year. Why not more often. Why not a couple of times more? Is this like a main bulk of the income for you guys or is this just like a side income right now?
Vivian: Well, for Flourish Media conference it is 100% funded by Flourish Media. So after we created Flourish Media, the company, we made a commitment because again, we started with the conference, a commitment that every piece of business that we bring in, we put aside 10% of that to finance the conference the following year. So it takes a year to raise the money that it costs to put on the conference. And so that's why.
And then in that timeframe we also created Behind The Leaf. And Behind The Leaf is a 501 C3 tax exempt organization, a nonprofit that now hosts the conference. Now we separated the business side of providing those marketing services under Flourish Media. Then we have the conference and we have one other event that we host called publisher, which is a book fair for women authors. And we do that under Behind The Leaf, which is our non-profits. So Flourish Media the conference is not a moneymaker for us. It's 100% a charitable activity because we care about women in business having access and growing.
Chrys: Tell me about a second event, the book fair events. So I know you are a self-publish author, but Dr. Tracy, I don't believe she's a self-publish author, isn't she?
Vivian: No, not quite. We're working on it though. We're going to encourage her to publish her book. So she may go the traditional route or or self-publish. But the great thing about being a storyteller is that you're not restricted to one story. You can write several books. So publisher is like I said, when we had the conference, we started the company, then we started to have a lot of clients.
And one of the people that we came across, her name is Jameela Rosser and she wrote a book called wash day and it's about taking care of kinky, curly hair. And she wrote this book, it's beautiful, it's full of all these different illustrations. And as a support, we decided to purchase several copies of the book in Spanish and in English and donate it to the Miami public library system.
So when we were talking to the library system... And shout out to them, because they've been a great partner in all the years and times that we've been doing things in our nonprofit, we decided, hey, wouldn't it be great if we not only donate these books but we make opportunity for other authors to bring in their stuff. And wouldn't it be even better if all these women authors were able to donate their books so that people who are restricted in their finances but they have a library card or young people are able to check out the book and be able to connect and see stories that are about them from people who look like them.
So what did we find out? That there are restrictions in the United States as far as who can donate books to the library. What a surprising things and discover, but you cannot just donate books to the library. There are specific steps that you have to take in order for the library to accept your book. So the library worked with us and other partners and we partnered with Atlantis university here in Miami and we decided to do the book fair there.
And at that book fair, we had 12 different self-published authors, women authors who were there. We had Samsung as a partner and a sponsor and we had 238 RSVP to that event. So we did it first in Miami, we've done it now in Atlanta and we're soon to do it in Las Vegas and LA. So it's a book fair, and again, all of the funding, how we pay for all these things is that 10% that we put aside from the work that we do in Flourish Media.
Chrys: Wow. I love it. I love that you guys are not just in it for the money. I love that you guys have thought about the greater good of humanity. So here's the thing, dwith your years of experience in entrepreneurship and marketing, we've all gone through moments of ups and downs, right? So what have been some of the challenges or even failures that you faced in all these years?
Vivian: I think the biggest failure for me was not recognizing that I was meant to be an entrepreneur faster. I went to college and I do have three degrees. I'm not a PhD like Dr. Tracy, but I do have three degrees. And in my goals I thought that I'd be working in corporate America, working for the government cause I studied political science, public relations, and then public administration. So I'm a lawyer, but not quite. When I started working, it was in the middle of the recession so I kept getting hired for these awesome jobs, but the last one is the first out.
So I would get laid off over and over again, three times to be exact. Finally, when I did have a stable job in corporate America, when things started looking better for the country as a whole, I realized that there were just so many limits on what I could achieve and what I could do with my time because I was never money motivated. Even though people call me the mini mogul money man... It's cause money loves me. It's very attracted to me and likes to find me, so it's a lovely little characteristic to have. However, I'm not money motivated.
And that's true because originally I went to school cause I wanted to work in the government, I wanted to speak up for people who are silence and speak up for people who were never heard. And I think that entrepreneurship is an area where you can create your own reality and you can choose to have a for profit business that does social good. And that's truly how I want to spend my time and my energy. So I think that that was a mistake and I'm not leaning into and making sure that you invest in things that will help you to move forward.
Luckily all of the things that I learned in my education, all those hundreds of thousands of dollars that I spent with Sallie Mae and all the people is being put to good use now to the benefit of everyone I work with. And it's because I studied political science, it's why I know how to register 501c3 for people who are doing charitable good in the community.
It's because of the time and energy that I spent studying political science that I know why people do what they do and I understand, studying people and their activities and what motivates them, not to vote a certain way but now to buy something or to donate different charitable causes. So I would definitely say that was a mistake, but it has definitely been writing at this point.
Chrys: When you decided like, you know what, I'm gonna quit my job and I'm going to start my own business, I'm going to do my own stuff. Were you afraid? Were you scared?
Vivian: You know what? I was very, very, very, very, very, very, very scared. I had no idea. I mean, every, I didn't know people who were entrepreneurs, my family, they were in the U S military or they worked for other people. They worked in the government, they had stable jobs. I just didn't have any prototypes to show me that it was a possibility. And that's why we host the conference because it's so great to see.
Once you see it, your mind can't tell you that it can't be done. It kind of reduces the fear a little bit. And for me, the reason why I ultimately did leave my corporate job was only because I had the stability and I had a client who was paying me the more than what I would have made in my nine to five jobs. So it wasn't like I was so brave, it was just that I could see it and paper that, okay. Finally I'll be okay.
Chrys: So you were saying it's important to have role models or people to learn from. So I was wondering like when you first started out, who are your role models?
Vivian: When I did officially leave my corporate job, I had been working in real estate for quite awhile. So I had watched a lot of very successful real estate developers and people who have an entrepreneurial spirit every day at work. I mean literally every single day I was working on this account or that account or selling this house when that one, and they would take the money and open a laundry mat or a hair salon or any number of things.
And I kept looking at them and saying, Oh well they're doing this. I mean it's scary because the one thing about being an entrepreneur is that you don't have a steady income. You never do. Jeff Bezos doesn't have one. If something goes wrong with Amazon and things just fall apart, it's gone. But when you work for someone, you have that stability.
I think it was such a blessing that I went through the recession and had that experience where I worked in corporate, I'm putting up quotes, you all can't see them, but I'll tell you, I'm putting up quotes, working in corporate, having a stable, safe job, but I was fired three times in the recession immediately after getting my master's degree, so I didn't have that false narrative that just because you work for somebody else, you have a stable job. So becoming an entrepreneur and understanding that, okay, the work I put in is the work I'm going to get back out and I'm okay with that.
Chrys: I used to work in advertising I think for almost a decade and they did say that in an event of a recession, we are the first people to go because no one would invest in marketing.
Vivian: Mm hmm.
Chrys: So guys, go check out vivianolodun.com after today's show. Now, today's show is sponsored by my messenger marketing agency, Chrys Media. We work with our clients to help them get more leads and increase engagement and sales with Facebook Messenger marketing. Now if you're interested to learn more about Facebook messenger marketing and how it can help your business, then go check out my free online training on how you can use Facebook Messenger marketing. So go to hackyouronlinebusiness.com/messenger after today's show.
Vivian, have you heard about Facebook messenger marketing?
Vivian: Oh yes. It's so important and so key. I hope you were listening. We started from nothing and we only advertise online. We only use Facebook ads and we had 78 ladies who came to our very first conference and those tickets were not free. The conference is about a hundred dollars per ticket at that time. Now it's about $150 per person so you can do the math and we did not spend that amount in Facebook ads. So definitely take advantage of that kind of support.
Chrys: Now Vivian let's talk about your book. I am super excited about it. So it's called Stumbling Through Adulthood, a guided journey for failing forward. Now tell us more about this book.
Vivian: Yes. So Stumbling Through Adulthood, a guided journal for failing forward is a book about mistakes, about taking ownership of failure and about growing that thick skin in a really relatable, hilarious, awkward way because one of the things about building a business is that you have to make a lot of mistakes and the best way for you to get oriented with that is to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
And that does not happen overnight. It happens through dating the wrong person. It happens through trying to fit into clothes that don't fit, trying to fit into communities that don't want you and trying to make it in different ways that you just learn, okay, this is not the right fit for me. And sometimes it's finding success and something that you might be good at, but you have no passion for and that your soul isn't in it. And it's coming to terms with that and understanding that that failure is a way for you to move forward.
Chrys: How has this book impacted your life personally or even professionally?
Vivian: It's impacted me a lot personally because it gave me a real sense of silent confidence because when you're building your own business or you're trying to achieve something, it's very easy to have what we call the imposter syndrome of... How dare I say I'm an entrepreneur, how dare I say that I'm a writer, whatever it may be, or I'm a designer but maybe I'm not all these other things.
And having to look at it on paper showed me that, wow, I really have accomplished quite a bit. You know, I was managing banking and security for Disney, for Wacovia bank. I've done amazing things and when I had to look at it on paper, it gave me a real self-assurance that translated into my business because in the process of writing the book and finding that confidence and being okay saying, yes, I can help a multimillion dollar company grow from one niche to another, or attract a particular audience or speak the right language to sell a particular product, I can do that and I can do it with confidence and did translate into actual dollars.
My team grew from four to 13 people in the time that I wrote the book, we were able to hit numbers in our sales and bringing in different clients because I was so self-assured in what my story was. I think everybody listening here has gone through the practice of trying to write your elevator pitch, and when you're writing your elevator pitch and trying to share with people, you know why are you the right person to handle this piece of business for me? And I can 100% confidently say I am the right person to handle this.
And also I'm free to say, you know what, I'm not the right person for that particular thing. I'm okay with saying I don't want to work on that, which is another lesson as entrepreneur that you have to learn is where to say no and what kind of business do you want to have. And I don't let the nos overwhelm me because I know there'll be somebody else who's the right fit for me to be my client.
Chrys: All those lessons from just writing one book. So guys, if you're thinking about writing a book, there you go. Some ideas for you. And I know your book is self-published, you actually self publish this book.
Vivian: Yes, you're correct. I self-published the book.
Chrys: Why did you decide to self publish instead of going with a publisher?
Vivian: Well, I decided to self publish because about three years ago, I sat in a presentation given by Amazon. I was doing some research for the benefit of some of my clients, like I said, Jameela Razor who was writing her book and they walked through the process of publishing on Amazon through Kendall and through KDP and it was so easy.
And quite frankly, the process of publishing with a traditional publisher, it can be quite long, and I'm a busy lady. I have a business to run. And when I looked at the math and because I already had the knowledge, I thought, I'm just gonna do it this way.
And when it's time or if it ever is time for me to move over to be with a traditional publisher, they will pick it up, it's no big deal.
Chrys: Okay. So I am not familiar at all with self-publishing. Can you walk me through the process that if I want to write a book, I have to take steps.
Vivian: All right, so if you want to write a book, you only need about three things.
You need to have the story itself, which can be in a word document. You need a cover art - so you need the artwork that will go on the front of the book, and you need an ISBN number. So that ISBN number, you can either get it from Amazon, which Amazon will give you an ISBN when you upload directly into their system, or you can purchase an ISBN number and you'll do that with the local authorities in the United States with the actual U S government.
You'll get an ISBN number with them, and once you have that ISBN number, you're able to sell it in bookstores on Amazon and all over the whole world. That's all you need. Three things.
Chrys: That's all? Like that's it?
Vivian: That's all you need. Now it can get more complicated. For example, if you publish through Amazon and you let them give you an ISBN number and you don't have one yourself, which is even easier, but you can never sell your book anywhere else but Amazon. You're exclusive to Amazon. So that's important. Now with your cover art, we always say you can't judge a book by its cover, but everybody does.
So take the time and work with the right designers and really spend the time to understand what you want your cover to say to people because it is the first thing people see and they do buy the book based on the cover. Some other things - when you have an ISBN number, you don't have to get one directly from the government. When you work with a publishing company, they will assign you an ISBN.
So what I did and because Flourish Media is a company, I registered Flourish Media with an ISBN. So if there's anyone else who ever wants to publish a book and they're having a hard time, then now I put myself in a power position where I can publish books for other people. So I want to eliminate that issue as well. And I would say, when you're writing a book and with the programs like what's available with Amazon, you really can write on a word document and publish it.
But keep in mind that when you publish a book, it is your book forever. So give your book honor, give attention to your story, hire an editor, do that favor to yourself, and make sure that you're presenting the best work that you possibly can.
There's ways that it can become more complicated or even more expensive because you can publish a book for free too. It doesn't have to cost you anything to do, but put your best foot forward.
Chrys: And you were saying that now Flourish Media is able to help people publish the books. Is that one of the services that you guys offer right now?
Vivian: It is something that we want to roll out in 2020 we're going to look at all of the different kinks, work everything out first. Now, if you do want to get the cover art for your book, if you're looking at editing your book and the process to publish, because writing a book is different than publishing a book because when you launch a book, you have to be open to being on podcasts like this.
Being open to show up for your book, being at live activations and workshops and putting together all of those marketing materials, the funnels, all these things, and that is something that Flourish Media already does and we're happy to do that.
Chrys: For anyone who's interested in launching their book, how long does it take to publish a book? How long did it take you to publish a book?
Vivian: It took me three weeks to publish my book because... Now that's not writing it. It took me from the concept to publish book, it took me 12 months. So from concept sitting in my car after working out, writing everyday, going through with editors, creating the cover, all that stuff, it took 12 months.
Now it took me three weeks because Amazon will review your book, they review the margins and then they will either accept it or deny it and when you submit it, it takes about 72 hours for them to say yes or no. So they told me no three times because I have illustrations in my book and so they are at the margins, the design is actually in the margins. So we needed to move it inward as much as possible until it was accepted by the program.
And it's not a person, there's no person to talk to, it's completely automated. So a lot of self-published authors will tell you the KDP is amazing once it's done, quite difficult to do.
Chrys: And where can my listeners find your book today?
Vivian: You can find my book on vivianolodun.com. It is in paperback, it is in e-book and in Kindle. So if you're on Amazon and you looking for Stumbling Through Adulthood, you will find me there as well.
Chrys: Perfect. Now before we end on this episode, I'd like you to share what is the biggest lesson that you've learned as an entrepreneur?
Vivian: The biggest lesson I've learned as an entrepreneur is to take one thing at a time and to ask for help when you need it. No one gets where they want to go by doing it by themselves. If you want to go fast, you go by yourself. But if you want to go far, get a team.
Chrys: Beautiful words. Now this is a perfect way to close out this episode, guys. Go check out vivianolodun.com after today's show to learn more about publishing your book with Flourish Media, how to attend Flourish Media conference in Miami and of course to go buy Vivian's book, Stumbling Through Adulthood, a guided journey fulfilling forward.
So thank you guys so much for spending time with me and Vivian today. Head on over to hackyouronlinebusiness.com. You can find the show notes, the links and everything that we just talked about.
Vivian, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show.
Vivian: Thank you so much for having me. This has been fantastic. So much fun.
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