Shameka Shy Ayers

Leveraging the success of my blog, The Broke Socialite, I now produce lifestyle tours (think pub crawls) with a social media twist.

Ah ha moment: In the fall of 2009, my husband and I were talking about how we were sick of simply going to a dinner and a movie. We wanted to do something that was fun and interactive. After brainstorming, we realized the tours would be fun and were an untapped endeavor in Atlanta. Adding the social media component; encouraged attendees to tweet/Facebook while on the tours, thus providing immediate reviews to the stops on the tours and their networks. I launched in January 2006.

My ideal client: Is first and foremost, a foodie. To take it a step further, foodies who appreciate social media. Because I had a shoestring budget, I started advertising the tours on Facebook and Twitter to land my first client.

Measuring success: Success is multi-faceted for me. It’s the perfect storm of great client service, attention to detail and being able to make a living from all of these components which play into my passion. The crux of my success is using social media as the foundation to my empire. I paid my dues in the form of building and nurturing relationships in the new media space. Because of the loyal base that I have, I’ve yet to have to spend a dime on advertising or marketing (besides sweat equity, of course). Generating buzz about my events has been a lot easier because of my wonderful network. They vouched for me first and foremost; I am forever grateful.

Struggle: As a solopreneur, I am still struggling with balance and recruiting staff. I’m a chronic do-it-myself-er — much to my detriment. I’m trying to set a schedule and stick to appointments with myself that allow a respite for exercise or a mani/pedi.

Biggest surprise: Having been an employee, I had limited insight to The Big Picture when I was in the traditional workplace. Knowing all of the moving parts of my business is my reality and it can sometimes be stressful.

Awareness translates to sales: I know it sounds like I’m beating the same drum but social media has been the great differentiator for my brand. The more engaged I am with my community on Twitter and Facebook, the more awareness about my brand. It’s viral. Awareness typically translates into ticket sales for me.

Wish I’d known: 1. (This is a tough one!) Everyone doesn’t have my best interest at heart. 2. I should know how to do every aspect of my business should I ever need to step in for a contracted employee.

It’s 2am and…: What keeps me up at night? More ideas! I’ve always a few in the back of my mind. I am practicing staying more focused these days because I simply can not conquer everything that I’d like to do at one time.

Ever tempted to throw in the towel?: Absolutely not. I vow to never sit in another gray cube — so help me God.

The price is right: At sounds elementary (because it is) but create a budget that is a living, breathing document. Strike a balance between fair pricing and being able to profit; thus making a decent living. Who wants to work and not get paid? Surely not anyone reading this.

Be fund smart: I have been totally self-funded to date. If I had any advice about self-funding, it’d surely be to NOT bankrupt your household…even for your dreams.

Top (not so) secret tips: 1. Social media is your friend and it is free; use it to your advantage. 2. When building a brand, be authentic. Your voice goes quite a long way. Protect your brand like a junkyard dog; no one else loves it like you do. 3. Must-read online resource: Since so much of my work is social-media and branding centric, I read a daily digest called SmartBuzz on Social Media. It’s the latest case studies, technological advances and thought-provoking papers in social media within a snapshot.

The absolute best part of owning my business is: waking up every morning and being in control of my destiny (a.k.a. NOT sitting in a dreadful gray cubicle every day).

If I had to start over again: I would have organized my office before the first real day on the job. I’m fighting a losing battle over here keeping my files straight.

I never imagined: stepping away from my work at the end of the day would be so difficult.

If I was standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: ”If I can do this, you can, too. Trust me.”

Twitter: http://twitter.com/brokesocialite

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/GaspSwoonFaint

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