Devona Stimpson is an entrepreneur, artist, best-selling author, international speaker, and branding expert. She’s the Co-Founder of Strive & Grind, an international Branding and Creative boutique and is the Creator of gangSTAR* CREATIVE.
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Typeform – Devona’s small business resource
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3 Value Bombs
1) Branding starts with a vision and a strategy.
2) Don’t rely on one source of income.
3) Focus on the thing that you want to be known for.
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(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
[01:25] – Devona is an artist and paints colorful pieces with acrylic
[03:32] – She’s an expert in premium branding
[04:46] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: People often think that branding is marketing — it’s not. Branding is what people think about you and your business. It creates an emotion that is the most important, intangible asset of your business
[06:17] – Brands always begin with strategy and vision
[07:18] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: It was Thanksgiving of 2015, and Devona and Kevin had just moved from California. They went to an entrepreneur event and spent $36,000 for a business coach on credit. They were still working their day jobs since they hadn’t been earning with their new business, Strive & Grind, yet. Nearly 3 months passed and they still hadn’t made that $3K recurring revenue to pay off their credit card. Thanksgiving came and Devona and Kevin were shocked to see… $3,000 in their bank account
[11:29] – Don’t just rely on making money online — offline work is just as important
[12:10] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: When Devona and Kevin started their branding business, they offered everything to everyone in that industry. They thought about what steps they could take to help their clients have uniform branding throughout – they started offering the Brand Slam Process
[14:53] – Focus on one thing
[18:20] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “It’s just the fear of the unknown”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “There’s a difference between being in good debt and bad debt”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “I get into the habit of writing in my happy planner”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Typeform
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Big Magic – “we’re naturally creative and this book shares great insights on tapping into that creativity”
[20:09] – Patience and consistency are part of the entrepreneurial journey
Devona: Yes, I am John!
John: Yes! Devona is an entrepreneur, artist, bestselling author, inspirational speaker and branding expert. She’s the co-founder of Strive and Grind, an international branding and creative boutique. It is the creator of gangSTAR Creative. Devona take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Devona: Well, first and foremost thank you for having me on this show. I’m super excited. Right now, I’m currently living in sunny San Diego, your stomping grounds, with my two doggies and my husband and business partner, Kevin Stimpson, who was actually on this show a couple of years back.
John: Episode 1,090. Crazy.
Devona: Look at you! You’re on it!
I’m also an artist, I paint. I paint mostly colorful pieces with acrylic painting female figures and portraits. I’m originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia on the east coast. I’ve always been creative. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been drawing, just creating things with my hands and on the computer. I created my first website when I was in the fourth grade; I basically taught myself how to do graphic design, learn the programs, learn code. I was just really ambitious on finding a career path for me that was a creative outlet. Come full circle today, I’m actually doing just that, and I currently co-run an international branding and creative boutique with Kevin, my husband, helping entrepreneurs, influencers, and online service-based businesses create memorable, disruptive, badass premium brands. Helping them stand out as a leader in their industry and helping them attract the right customers, and ultimately making more money.
John: Love all of that. And Fire Nation, a little bit of a disclaimer here, Devona, myself we’re friends, of course, Kevin, too. Over my time in San Diego, there are a lot of people that moved to San Diego; they happened to be two of those people that moved here. We became friends. We’ve been to multiple conferences together. Devona, I specifically remember it was the most recent Thrive Conference, this past September, I think it was when we were all there having a blast as always. I just remember looking at you, having a conversation with you, hearing what you were up to, and saying you know what? This girl’s ready. Kevin was on back on episode 1090, and I’m saying Devona’s ready for Entrepreneur on Fire. I remember I asked you on the spot; you didn’t hesitate, here we are just a few months later, chatting away. I’m loving this.
Devona: I know. I’m so excited. You don’t even know. Or maybe you do know.
John: I hope so. Your area of expertise, I think you did a great job in the intro and going through what you do. If you could really just break it down into one thing that you are just an expert of experts in, what is that one thing?
Devona: I would have to say that one thing is in branding. Specifically, premium branding with businesses and entrepreneurs, most of you listening right now, we believe that branding is the most important thing for your business, even above sales. Think of it like building a house. If you build a house and there’s no foundation to the house eventually it’s gonna collapse and fall down. Think of branding like the foundation to your business. If you don’t have the brand strategy, if you don’t have the lying foundation, eventually your business is gonna fall and collapse, and you don’t want that to happen. With branding, it’s all about long-term success. When you grow a business as entrepreneurs, we always have a bunch of ideas, and we just run for it without setting any foundation. It’s like, let me take some action, but what we like to educate our clients on is that branding is the most important thing. We want you to be set up for success for the long-term from the very beginning.
John: Without saying something like be authentic, be you because, of course, we all know that. What’s something we don’t know about branding that as entrepreneurs we really should? What’s something that you see time, and time again entrepreneurs making mistakes and you’re saying I just wish they knew this?
Devona: Oh, my gosh. I love this question. A lot of people think that branding is marketing. I have conversations, and they’ll ask what do you do? I say I run an international branding company. They say, so you do marketing? I say no, I do branding. Branding isn’t marketing; marketing’s a vehicle to get your brand out there. It’s not your website, it’s not your logo, and it’s not about aesthetics or just looking pretty.
Branding is more of an emotion. It’s what people are thinking about you, what people are saying about you and what their feeling about you. It’s the most important and tangible asset to your business. The other thing that most people don’t know is that branding actually starts with strategy and it starts with a vision. Not all the pretty tangible stuff. We’re all about setting up your brand for the long-term. We always ask our clients where do you see yourself in two to five years? You have to ask yourself whenever you want to start a business, start a movement, start a personal brand where do you see yourself at least two years down the road? Do you want to be a best-selling author, how much money do you wanna make? Do you wanna have multiple office locations? Do you wanna be speaking on a stage alongside X, Y, Z, what is the big picture?
It’s from that vision that you lay that foundation so that you can build a brand that aligns with that and actually stay on track so that you’re set up for success. It’s not about aesthetics at all, that’s a big part of it, those are just little puzzle pieces; like your logo, your website, the marketing, the sales those are all the puzzle pieces that make up the big picture to your brand. It all begins with strategy, and you should always start there and always start with a vision because so many entrepreneurs we’ve talked to don’t even have a vision. They say I have an idea. Start with the vision, and from there you’ll be set up for the long-term success.
John: Well you obviously were thinking long-term, Kevin, obviously was as well. He was on over three years ago, and you guys are still delivering on the vision, still delivering on what you wanted to do. You’ve had this long-term marathon type mentality that just wins Fire Nation. Is your attitude a marathon like it needs to be? That is an absolute focus, don’t be here just for the sprint, be here for the whole game. Devona, you weren’t always hanging out with JLD and Kate in San Diego and different conferences and just having the time of your life, crushing it for everybody in brands, etc., you’ve had some tough times as well. That’s what I want you to bring us to next. Tell Fire Nation your worst entrepreneurial moment. Take us into that moment, tell us that story.
Devona: Definitely the worse entrepreneurial moment for me was during Thanksgiving of 2015. This was shortly after we moved to California, we went to an entrepreneur event, our first one, and we invested $36,000 into a business coach and the mastermind, for a whole year. That’s $3,000 a month. All on a credit card because we didn’t have the money then, but we knew that, right? We knew that we wanted to be successful, we wanted to have freedom, we wanted to create a business that made an impact. We know we needed the help in the community because everything that we were doing on our own wasn’t working. We said, okay, what the heck, let’s hire this coach, let’s hire this mastermind and just go all in.
Just after moving to Cali, we were still working the day jobs at the time, that we knew we wanted to quit those day jobs as soon as possible. With that being said, it was on a $10,000 credit card, I believe, that means we had about three months to get our butts into motion and start making that money to get that 3k of recurring revenue a month to cover those payments. Mind you; we weren’t making any money from Strive and Grind at that time. Just thinking about making $3,000 a month was a ton of money in our eyes. It felt so impossible. I think any new entrepreneur listening to this probably even making your first $1,000 a month is like whoa. Is this really possible?
John: I remember my first audible $25 commission when it went cha-ching. I said Kate, I just made 25 bucks from the podcast. That stuff doesn’t go away because it’s hard to get there. Yeah. Keep rocking.
Devona: I love that. It was during the next three months we were basically cranking away at an offer, pushing strategy sessions, creating lead magnets, creating webinars. Three months goes by, and we feel like we’re close, but we haven’t made nearly the 3k recurring revenue, we just made some cash here and there, not enough to cover the monthly expenses. Thanksgiving comes around, we look at our bank account, and we saw that there were negative three thousand plus dollars in there. We said, oh snap.
Devona: The money came out of our personal account, rent is due right around the corner on the first, we need to get this money back ASAP because we are struggling right now, and I don’t know what we’re gonna do we need to make some fast cash. We gotta figure this thing out. It was really in that moment that we realized the power of being broke. We knew that our livelihood was at stake, we knew in that moment we didn’t want to ever, ever, ever experience that feeling again. Ever to be put in that situation again. We knew that we had to work smarter and figure out a way to make cash no matter what.
John: Have you read the book The Power of Broke by Daymond John?
Devona: I haven’t yet, we have the book, but I haven’t read it. I know it’s around the basis of that feeling. I know what that feeling feels like because of what happened.
John: I actually had Daymond on the show for that book specifically because I think it such an important topic to at least think about Fire Nation because this is a reality. We’re entrepreneurs; we’re human beings when our back is against the wall, boom, we go into game mode; it’s survival of the fittest. I’ve had so many guests that have shared with me, their turn around a moment in their business was the day they had their baby. I said that’s kind of counter-productive because a baby’s loud, and takes time, and costs more money and all this stuff. It makes you tired; you can’t sleep. Then you think about it more, of course, it actually makes sense.
It makes so much sense that I call it the baby effect, where it’s when you bring something into the world like a child, all of a sudden nothing is scarier than not providing for that child. Those outbound phone calls that you procrastinate on? You’re doing those. Knocking on doors, doing webinars, whatever you need to do you’re going to do it to kick things into high gear, and to win. There’s so much power in being broke, your back against the wall, I’m not saying purposely put yourself there to endanger yourself and your family, but I’m saying if you’re there, use it to your advantage, make it happen. That’s my take away. Devona, one sentence, what do you wanna make sure Fire Nation gets from your story?
Devona: I think the biggest lesson learned from this was that you shouldn’t just rely on making money online. We see all these Internet success stories and want to Strive and Grind away at hiding behind a computer, but reality is the offline work is just as important. Doing business online is what saved our butts. You have a war market, reach out to them, go to events network and don’t be scared to get on the phone. That was something that was a big hurdle for us.
John: Great ideas Devona you’ve had over the course of your life. You’ve had ah-ha moments, you’ve had some terrible ideas, we all have. Absolutely. I had a horrible idea today; I won’t get into it but believe me, it was a horrible idea. I don’t wanna talk about that I wanna talk about one of the greatest ideas you’ve had to date. Take us to that moment, tell us that ah-ha moment story.
Devona: Like most start-up agencies, you feel like you have to offer a ton of services. When we started the branding and creative boutique, we said we were gonna do logos; we’re gonna do websites, maybe we should step into social media content, SEO, all this stuff. When we're doing that we realized when someone would come to us for a logo, we’d say that’s a really cool logo, but all the rest of their branding looked like crap. Or if someone would come to us for a website but their logo looked like crap, and their photos looked like crap, it didn’t matter, the website was gonna look like crap too.
I said, okay, what can we do not to make this happen? How can we make our clients the most successful that they can be? I had this idea to come up with one sole offer which was eventually called our brand slams. This is our brand slam process, and in this brand slam, it’s everything that we know that our clients need to create a successful brand. We said with all these elements can we put the cherry on top and actually deliver this in a fast turn-around time without sacrificing quality?
As I was building this process, it ended up being a 45-day process. We created the brand slam where it’s basically, we do the strategy because most people don’t have the strategy for their business like I said earlier. After the strategy, it’s the creation mode of creating your brand identity so your logos, colors, inspiration board, and actually doing the photo shoot, so you have the good imagery to build a brand with. After that, we go into website creating a beautiful, beautiful design website, that we’ll optimize, and then doing a bit of brand collateral, so everything is consistent, and then we launch in 45 days. This was the best idea I ever had because it’s the main reason why Strive and Grind are where it is today, it’s the one thing that made us catapult to the success that we reach today. It’s helped so many of our clients.
John: Brand Slam. Fire Nation I love how she put an ending on there. Forty-five days. We need that turn-around time. Parkinson’s law tasks will expand to the time allotted. If you say we’ll do a brand slam for you, and then it keeps expanding into infinity, when are you gonna actually deliver that? When’s it gonna happen? Put a time limit on these things. You can make it happen. Parkinson’s law is real. What would you say the one take away is? For me, I got a couple of quick takeaways. Brand slam, when I see somebody come up with a tagline like that and they’re about to help me with branding, I’m saying obviously because they’re gonna be in a brand like that for themselves what can they do for me? I love the forty-five days, just having that very clear and distinct timeline. What’s one other thing you wanna make sure that we take out of your ah-ha moment?
Devona: Is that you should focus on the one thing. This is our key offering. This is the only thing that we offer, and it’s the one thing that has helped us serve our clients the best. When you offer too many things at once, you’re not known for doing great at the one thing you’re just known for. I think this person does this thing; I think this person does that thing; you’re not able to put your all into it and actually be good at it. The person that is actually focused on the one thing that that person needs they’ll win over your business every single time. So, focus on the one thing.
John: I love how Seth Godim puts this, then if you don’t do that one thing great you’re just doing everything kind of good, you’re in a race to the bottom. When you’re in a race to the bottom, the problem is you might actually win. You don’t wanna win that race to the bottom because nobody wins down there, nobody wins except maybe Walmart.
So, Fire Nation if you think Devona’s been dropping value bombs, just wait for the lightning round, which is coming up after we thank our sponsors.
Devona are you ready to rock the lighting rounds?
Devona: I am!
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Devona: I think like most people, it’s just the fear of the unknown. Not knowing what’s gonna happen. Not knowing if your decisions that you’re making right now are gonna be the right ones.
John: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Devona: There’s a difference between good debt and bad debt. And you should always invest the good debt in yourself. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I never took those types of financial risks at all.
John: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Devona: I get overwhelmed pretty easily, and so I make it a habit of writing in my Happy Planner. You can look that up online; it’s a good resource. It allows me to be creative. I plan my whole week in there every week. I check off tasks; I journal in it, it’s very customizable which I like about it. I’m able to make all the good things that happened that week. It keeps me on the right path.
John: Recommend one Internet resource.
Devona: My favorite Internet resource is Type Form, it’s a free resource that you can use to create any type of form to gather information. We use it to gather information from our clients, for testimonials, for our new hires, for pretty much anything you need to gather information for.
John: Recommend one book and share why.
Devona: I would recommend Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Whether you believe it or not, as entrepreneurs we’re naturally creative, and in this book, it shares great insight into tapping into tapping into your creativity and how you should never hold back on it.
John: Fire Nation, it’s a great audiobook, as well. If you’re not already an audible member, get that book for free, eofirebook.com. Devona let’s end today on fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you and then we’ll say buh-bye.
Devona: Patience and consistency. Those are the things that are part of the journey as entrepreneurs. This especially applies when it comes to branding. John, you’re a testament to that, look where you are now, thousands of episodes later. The brands that you love today wouldn’t be where they are right now if they didn’t have the patience and they weren’t consistent in their branding and following through on that strategy. If you wanna create a premium brand and charge premium prices, I do have a free sheet that I’m gonna give to you and your audience, and it’s the Seven Secrets to Charting Premium Prices as an Expert or start a service-based business online. You can get it at striveandgrind.com/fire, and if you wanna connect with me, you can follow me on devonastimpson.com.
John: Love all of this. Fire Nation you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with you’ve been hanging out with DS and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, just type Devona, D-E-V-O-N-A in the search bar, her show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz, timestamps, links galore, and of course head directly over for that killer free gift. I’m gonna snag it before you Fire Nation, but you better get it too. striveandgrind.com/fire. Devona thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Devona: Thanks, John.
John: Hey Fire Nation, hope you enjoyed our chat with Devona today, she’s awesome. It’s time to accomplish your number one goal in 100 days, so visit thefreedomjournal.com and I will catch you there, or I’ll catch you on the flip side.
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