Ameena Gorton is a serial Entrepreneur who has started businesses in the Middle East and France. Five years ago, she ditched her corporate suit to share her straight up business and marketing style with the world.
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- “The creative adult is the child who has survived.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
- Ameena has led quite an interesting life, and her outlook on this topic is unique and very interesting.
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
- Ameena realized that if she wanted to succeed in her industry, her priorities must be set straight. Her action was drastic… and very effective.
- Ameena is on the brink of “World Record-breaking” accomplishments.
- Ameena is fast, direct, and to the point!
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- The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napoletano
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John Lee Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply overjoyed to introduce my guest today, Ameena Falchetto. Ameena, are you prepared to ignite?
Ameena Falchetto: I sure am!
John Lee Dumas: Alright! Ameena is a serial entrepreneur who has started businesses in the Middle East and France. Five years ago, she ditched her corporate suit to share her straight up business and marketing style with the world.
I’ve given Fire Nation a little overview, Ameena, but why don’t you take it from here? Tell us about you personally, and then a little bit about your business.
Ameena Falchetto: Okay. Well, as we were talking about earlier, I’m half English, half Egyptian, and I currently live in the South of France. That was a great intro you just gave me. Yes, I’ve been living in the Middle East and now back in Europe, starting up various businesses. In the last few years, I’ve been working as a marketing consultant.
John Lee Dumas: So whereabouts in the Middle East have you lived?
Ameena Falchetto: Well, I was actually born in Dubai, but I lived around in Dubai, Qatar, Oman. I moved around quite a lot as a kid and I also lived in the UK. I studied in the UK. I went back to Dubai, after I got sick of the rain in the UK, and five years later, I then decided I wanted to move to France. And so here I am in France and I’ve been here almost four years.
John Lee Dumas: Very cool! Those were a lot of cool places. Myself, I actually was an officer in the Army for a number of years so I spent some pretty serious time in the Middle East. 13 months in Iraq and Kuwait and a little bit of time in Saudi Arabia. So I’m definitely familiar on some levels with that part of the world. Do you ever see yourself going back there?
Ameena Falchetto: Never say never, but it’s a different part of the world. My family still live out there actually in Dubai. I’ve got my sister there and my mother, and so there’s always that connection.
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely, Ameena. Well, listen, I’m glad we got a little intro. We’re obviously going to delve a lot more into that later, but let’s start now with how we start every show at EntrepreneurOnFire, and that’s with a success quote because we like to get the motivational ball rolling nice and early to get our listeners really pumped for the content that you have for us. So Ameena, what do you have for your mantra for us today?
Ameena Falchetto: Well, it’s quite a simple quote, but it’s not necessarily a success quote. It’s “the creative adult is the child who survived.” This is something really, really important to me, coming from a creative background, and I think it’s really important in whatever you do, is just to embrace that in a child and really remember what it was like when you were a child and being curious and not being afraid to try.
John Lee Dumas: I love that quote. It just really speaks to you and your inner voice. How would you say that you really apply that quote to your everyday life or mentality?
Ameena Falchetto: Well, I’ve got a good reminder because I have a two-and-a-half year old daughter. So she always keeps reminding me to be a child and when I’m playing with her, it kind of reminds me to keep it fresh and to be curious. For me, it’s always that way. It’s just don’t be afraid to try because there’s nothing more scary than not knowing. If you don’t try, you’ll never know the outcome. As far as creativity is concerned, I stopped drawing. I used to be at art school and I used to paint every day. I stopped for over a decade, and then I decided last year to bring illustration into my business, and my drawings couldn’t be any more immature if I tried, I think. I keep them that way on purpose because I think it’s a fun reminder when I’m talking about dry topics about my marketing. A little doodle drawing gets the message across a little bit more effectively than a stock photo or something like that.
John Lee Dumas: I definitely hear you and EntrepreneurOnFire is about your journey, Ameena. So can you maybe share with us a story where this drawing has actually helped you in a business situation recently?
Ameena Falchetto: Yes. Sure. It was actually last year. It was end of last year I decided to put my marketing consultancy online because I was in the South of France and I don’t really speak French. Well, definitely not well enough to speak to clients in French. So I decided to go online. And then I was really faced with an interesting challenge with a potential client who wanted me to pitch them and they said they didn’t want many words and things like that, and I was starting to put together a fairly visual PowerPoint and I was like, “Oh, this really sucks!” I had it all mapped out in front of me, this doodle about how I’d do their marketing plan and how I visualize their brand. And then the next thing I knew, I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to scan this and send it,” and they went nuts. And then from then on, that’s when I started drawing and putting my drawings online.
John Lee Dumas: I love that story. Thank you for sharing that with us. So Ameena, we’re going to transition now to our next topic. As entrepreneurs, one thing that is present every single day are failures or obstacles or challenges of different sorts that we just need to overcome. Can you take us back to some point in your journey and share with Fire Nation a failure or an obstacle that you had to overcome that was really powerful and that you learned a lot from, and then tell us how you overcame that.
Ameena Falchetto: Well, probably the biggest challenge I’ve faced recently, as I’ve mentioned, is that I am in the South of France. We made the decision to move here four years ago and a lot of that was for a lifestyle change and to have a family. And then I realized I was faced with this challenge of wanting to go back to work, but wanting to be with my child as much as possible. And then I realized that I live in a cute little village on top of a hill in the South of France where nobody speaks a word of English. So for me, it was a big challenge. Like how am I going to run my business when I don’t speak the same language as the people around me? Previously, I’ve only ever had offline businesses. So the biggest challenge obviously was the language. That’s how I went online and I decided that what I was going to do was grow my business online so I could actually reach out to the world versus being stuck with my environment. The lessons I learned from that was really just to be flexible and to explore other options. It goes back to creativity and just being curious and open to different suggestions and different things, and I haven’t looked back, really.
John Lee Dumas: That’s a great lesson to be learned from that. We’ll use that to move to the next topic, which is the other end of the spectrum. You’ve been very fortunate where you don’t necessarily have a specific down and out failure that you can draw up and really kind of reminisce on and draw straight from or whatever, but you definitely are an inspirational person where you’re having these aha moments every single day and you’ve actually already spoken of one with your doodling that was very powerful and you’re using that in your business now and that was a great aha moment you’ve had about how to connect with your clients. Can you share with us another moment like that that you’ve had in your past that Fire Nation could really draw some great lessons from?
Ameena Falchetto: Well, one big aha moment I had was actually quite recently. It was when I decided to take a social media blackout and I completely logged off all social media. I stopped blogging. I just disappeared from the Internet for three-and-a-half weeks. The reason why I did that was because I was basically testing a theory that I needed space to create and to actually formulate my ideas and actually flesh out projects I had I was thinking about doing, and a lot of the projects I thought I should be doing, I abandoned. So the big aha moment for me in that was just like you cannot create when you’re constantly consuming other people’s content. So I didn’t read business books, I didn’t read business magazines. I just went straight off into doing what I did that would feed my creativity and feed my soul and make me happy. That, for me, was huge, and I think that it was also the realization that your business can continue and can exist without you constantly being connected 24/7.
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s delve into this a little bit. Let’s look at both ends of this kind of spectrum here. Take us through what a normal day in your life was before you went through this social media fast and what you seemed to be consumed with and what you were producing, and then take us into a few days into this social media fast and kind of show us how we can compare and contrast. I would just love to hear from Fire Nation’s perspective exactly the differences between the two.
Ameena Falchetto: Oh, it’s pretty embarrassing to actually just talk about what was happening just before I went on my blackout because I was in really bad habits. I would charge my phone next to my bed and the first thing I do when I woke up would be check the time, and then check my Facebook and check my Twitter. I was like this is a really bad habit. I was consumed. I’d be having my breakfast flicking through my phone and going through my emails, and my day would then be about creating conversations and I’d be answering emails and working with clients, but then it was always kind of back on to social media and what’s going on, posting this, sharing that. I was confusing activity with achievement and I was actually finding myself so, so busy, but I really wasn’t achieving half as much as I should have been, given the amount of hours I was putting in. Bear in mind, the reason why I decided to become an entrepreneur was because I didn’t want to be chained to a desk all day, and I was chaining myself to a desk only because I wasn’t getting everything done that I needed to in the right amount of time because I was wasting time on social media channels and things like that.
So three or four days into the social media blackout, I was kind of a bit twitchy and everything felt a bit strange. The first two days were actually quite hard, but then it became so liberating. That I had these couple of minutes where I’d be like, “Oh, I wonder what the world is doing? Should I just log in?” I’m like, “No, you’re not going to do that. You’ve deleted the apps from your phone for a good reason,” and I suddenly realized that I had so much more time to do the things I wanted to do, I had more time to concentrate on what was actually important in my business, and I had a whole lot of free time as well, which was really great because I could get on with actual creative projects that I wanted to do versus constantly feeling like I was chasing my tail.
John Lee Dumas: That’s great. Now talk to us about one or two of these projects that you really felt like you took massive strides in because of this social media blackout.
Ameena Falchetto: Well, actually initially, I was realigning my business and I was going to make some massive changes, and then I realized it wasn’t broken so I wasn’t going to fix it. So all I did was just kind of tweak things and repackage. I had my website redesigned. That was one creative project. And then there were other personal creative projects I needed to do. I started painting again. I started doing some different crafty things, which were just mainly for me, but I know that that’s important because you need to have that balance in life because life isn’t just about working. We work to live and not the other way around, and I found before I went on my blackout, I was living to work and it’s kind of an unhealthy situation.
John Lee Dumas: Now do you notice anything else along those lines as far as did your daughter make any comments or any family or friends around you about a change they saw in your mentality and just how you carried yourself over those three weeks?
Ameena Falchetto: There was definitely a lot more fun and I was a lot more present, and it’s a really sad reality of the world we live in. It’s always on and always on. It was quite nice to go out and play with my daughter without sort of looking at her with a phone. I mean that’s a really embarrassing confession. It horrifies me when I think that we’d go for a walk as a family and I’d be there on my phone, taking photos and I’m like, “What can I put on Facebook? What can I tweet?” and it’s just stupid. My daughter doesn’t talk all that much and I don’t think she really noticed, but she was definitely happy to have her mommy around a bit more.
John Lee Dumas: That’s great. Something that I wrote down while you were talking is “confusing activity with achievement.” I feel like that’s a really powerful phrase and it’s something that we should all really focus on because just because we’re busy and just because we’re active doesn’t mean we’re actually achieving something or taking steps forward in our businesses. A lot of the things that you were talking about were ringing very true with me and I know they’re ringing true with a lot of the listeners today because we feel like if we’re not busy at a certain moment, then potentially we’re doing something wrong, but it’s not always about being busy. It’s about being in the right state of mind. Have you felt that being in the right state of mind has been truly beneficial to your achievement aspect of that?
Ameena Falchetto: Absolutely, because in the past I had a completely offline business that I ran with my husband, John, when we were in the Middle East. That business was very, very seasonal. There were certain times of the year that we just couldn’t operate the business, which meant that we would have a couple of months to travel the world and do whatever we wanted to. I know that if I had been in that situation now where I felt like I had two months with no work, I would probably be panicking only because I just got into that cycle of being constantly busy. But it’s actually very, very liberating and that’s actually an idyllic situation to be able to have that time off. What people forget is that time off is just as important as time on, and everything doesn’t always have to be full on, full on, full on, and that’s unsustainable.
John Lee Dumas: Definitely unsustainable. On that note, Ameena, have you had an I’ve made it moment?
Ameena Falchetto: It’s always a hindsight moment. I always look back and think, “Oh, that was amazing!”
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs]
Ameena Falchetto: And then I’m like, “Why didn’t I appreciate it then?” I always wanted more and wanted more. I think the day that I say I made it is probably the day that I die because I don’t think it’s in my makeup to even think about like I have made it because when I get to the stage I want to be, I’m always looking forward, “What next? What next? What do I want next?” So I think it’s sort of the I made it moment kind of is a bit complacent, to be honest. It’s a place of complacency.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. That’s one reason why I love this question, because I get such a wide array of answers. Some entrepreneurs say, “Absolutely! I have an I’ve made it moment every single day.” Others on the other end of the spectrum say, “I will never have an I’ve made it moment because that means that I’m just not continuing to push myself.” For me, I feel like somewhere in the middle is probably the right answer where you’re actually setting goals, you’re driving hard at those goals, and then once you do achieve that, you need to really appreciate the accomplishments that you’ve had. So I feel like it’s about the journey. You’re in a place right now where you are really enjoying your journey and you’re looking back and seeing some I’ve made it moments that you’ve had in the past, and that may help you in the future to realize, “Hey, I need to actually really realize these I’ve made it moments in the present.”
Ameena Falchetto: That’s for sure. I do agree with that.
John Lee Dumas: So Ameena, we’re going to move now to the next topic, which is your current business. I would really like to kind of give Fire Nation a good grasp about everything that you’re doing right now, but let’s just start with one thing that’s really exciting you right now about your business.
Ameena Falchetto: The really exciting thing about my business right now is that I am working with some really, really awesome entrepreneurs and we’re just kind of starting out upping my game and it is seriously good fun. I’m loving it and I’m really lucky to be in a position where I get to choose the clients I work with. It really does rock my world. It’s fantastic.
John Lee Dumas: So how have you actually found that you’ve reached the point where you’re having these great entrepreneurs reaching out to you and you’re able to kind of choose and pick which ones you really are excited to and want to work with?
Ameena Falchetto: How do I do it? I actually have tweaked how I reach out to people a little bit. I’m not sort of leaving it to all the whole sort of idea of inbound marketing and social media. I’m actually reaching out to people who I used to know in my past, people in my network that I used to work with face-to-face on a daily basis. Because of that, I’m meeting more like-minded people. I’m just keeping the hustle on every day, basically.
John Lee Dumas: So the word “entrepreneur” is a mystery to most people, Ameena. At EntrepreneurOnFire, we like to pull the curtain back and kind of give our listeners a sneak peek into what exactly it is an entrepreneur will do during the course of a day. It’s very interesting on your end because you used to be overindulgent with social media. Then you went through a fast. So I think this would be pretty interesting. Can you kind of take us through a course of your day where you found a happy medium as far as balancing social media with achievement, with work and all that encompasses that?
Ameena Falchetto: The one thing that I do is I basically have everything on a grid. It’s basically I have a little matrix. What’s important and urgent? What’s important and not urgent? That whole thing. Then what is not important but urgent to do? That’s how I basically organize my day. My day obviously kicks off with my two-and-a-half year old, jumping on the bed.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs]
Ameena Falchetto: And it’s a great way to start the day, in all honesty. So she keeps me busy in the morning until I drop her off at daycare. Actually, the reason she’s in daycare is one, to get socialized, and two, to give me some time to do my work, but it actually means that when I go to pick her up at 4 o’clock, I am done for the day, and that’s it. If I can’t get it done between 9 AM and 4 PM when she’s not here, it just doesn’t get done. And because of that, I’ve had to be extremely focused. My day is mainly dealing with emails and client calls, and if, if there is time, to go on to social media, I’ll do it. And if there isn’t, well, too bad. Tomorrow is another day.
John Lee Dumas: It’s a great attitude to have and it really kind of brings into focus Parkinson’s Law, which is that work expands the amount of time that’s allotted to it. The fact that you know that you have 9 AM to 4 PM to work and that you’re going to be focused during that time, you’re, in all reality, probably can be getting as much or more done during those hours than you would if you knew that you had an unlimited amount of time – till say midnight – because you would just allow thing or another to distract you away from your main focus. But now that you have that, you can just drive forward.
Ameena Falchetto: Absolutely! Also, sometimes life happens as well. That’s one big reminder I always tell people, is that if it doesn’t get done today, you can always do it tomorrow, and you have to also be able to fit in when life happens and not panic because for example, I lost a day last week because my little girl fell and bumped her head and had to go and have some stitches. It’s like that was it. The day was gone. I couldn’t take her back to daycare and I didn’t really want to, and I was like at the end of the day, what’s really, really important? Yes, my business is important, my clients will understand because life happens. It’s about making sure that however you structure your business, is that you allow yourself to have time and concentrate on what really, really is important, and that again, as I said, life is for living. It’s not for working. If you can make sure that you’re being honest with yourself, that yes, when I’m working, I’m really doing something and I am working. I’m not mucking about at my desk. I’m working. So you can have that downtime to really do what you want to do with your life.
John Lee Dumas: So Ameena, you’ve shared with us the hint of some pretty exciting things coming up in your future. In general, can you just give us your overall vision for where you’re taking your company?
Ameena Falchetto: My vision changes on a daily basis actually, I think at the moment. It’s just the future of the company, at the moment, it’s kind of growing organically, which is very interesting. Like I always said I wasn’t going to have a team and I wasn’t going to do this. I’m always concentrating on what I don’t want because it helps me get closer to what I do want. Things are just growing by themselves. I’m always very open and very curious and I explore different things. I don’t want to have a huge – I mean if I [Unintelligible] corporate towers, that kind of makes me shudder. I don’t want to create my own thing that I just left. In terms of the future, I just want to keep on working with some really awesome people and keep doing some drawings. I do these branded entity visualizations, which I love doing because it gets me in touch with some really, really interesting and creative people, and that’s pretty much what I want to keep on doing.
John Lee Dumas: Sounds exciting. So Ameena, we’ve now reached my favorite part of the show. This is the Lightning Round. I get to ask you a series of questions and you can come at us, Fire Nation, with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
Ameena Falchetto: Okay!
John Lee Dumas: What was one thing that was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Ameena Falchetto: I guess it was fear in the beginning. Just the fear of the unknown, and at the time I was 26 years old, living in Dubai, and I was kind of scared like well, would anyone take me seriously? I was a woman in a man’s world, in the Arab world, and it was just like would I be able to do this? It was my husband, John, who was the one who said, “You know what? It’s not a problem with your boss that you’ve got. It’s a problem with the fact that you can’t work for anyone but yourself.” So he kind of coached me through the whole thing, but I would call him up and have tantrums and be like, “Oh, my boss is an idiot! I’m going to quit today!” and he’s like, “No, no, no, no, no! Don’t quit just yet. Just get everything organized. Get your clients lined up” and everything like that. And so then it was just like boom! I left and I had clients straight away. So when I set up my business, I made more money in the first month than I would have done if I had been employed for several months.
John Lee Dumas: Love it! What is the best business advice you ever received?
Ameena Falchetto: The best business advice I ever received was just basically to be extremely honest with yourself and be clear on what you really, really want, and it’s a lot harder to do than it is said really.
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely! What’s something that’s working for you or your business right now?
Ameena Falchetto: For me, as I said earlier, basically one thing that’s working for me right now, and is often neglected, is making sure that you use your network and the people around you to help you grow your business because I always use the example of my clients at “FRANK,” which is a network that most people ignore, especially when it comes to online or starting up a business. FRANK applies to your Family, your Relatives, your Acquaintances, your Neighbors or colleagues, and then Kids, and it depends on your business whether Kids applies, but it’s basically making sure that people around you who you’ve been spending maybe a lifetime natural relationships with, know what you’re doing. I’ve been applying that to my business a lot in recent months and it really has made a huge difference.
John Lee Dumas: I love that acronym. I’ve never heard it, so that’s very interesting. I’m definitely going to put that up in the show notes. Ameena, do you have a book that you think would be great for entrepreneurs to read?
Ameena Falchetto: My reading list is kind of limited to sort of Eric Carle and The Hungry Caterpillar these days, but the one book I’ve read recently that I loved was “The Power of Unpopular” by Erika Napoletano.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! I will absolutely be linking that up in the show notes as well. Ameena, this is the last question. It’s my favorite question, but it’s kind of difficult. So just take your time, digest it, and then come back at us with a great answer. If you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew nobody. You still have all the experience and all the knowledge you currently have, but only $500 in your pocket, a computer with Internet access and your food and shelter is taken care of. What do you do in the next seven days?
Ameena Falchetto: The first thing I would do is go down to this coffee shop. I’ll buy myself a coffee and I would talk to everyone who came in. I would then probably go to an art shop and buy some paper and some pens. And then go to another coffee shop and talk to everyone again, and I would draw and I would just have conversations with people. I definitely wouldn’t use my computer in those seven days.
John Lee Dumas: That’s a very unique perspective, but it’s very actionable. I like it. I like that perspective. You’ve given us some great actionable advice this entire interview, Ameena, and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one parting piece of guidance, then give yourself a plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Ameena Falchetto: Okay. Well, when it comes to some guidance, as I said, I always say to people, you can’t have everyone love you. So be honest with yourself and never be afraid to polarize opinions and be cool with people hating you because it means you’ve made a difference.
A plug? You gave me an awesome plug at the beginning of the interview, but yes. I’m a marketing consultant living in the South of France. I’m lucky enough to work with some pretty awesome people and their marketing, especially working on their online projects and getting themselves online. I just want to thank you so much for having me on the show.
John Lee Dumas: Well, Ameena, thank you. We’ll be linking up everything in the show notes, including how people can contact you and all of that. So again, thank you for your time. It is extremely valuable and kind of you and very generous. Fire Nation, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.