Kristen Vanstrom is a diehard entrepreneur, television personality, and goofball blogger. She believes that the greatest mistake of all is to do nothing because you think you can only do a little. She’s passionate about branding, creating content with a personality, and being blonde.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Kristen had a thriving business, the $$ was rolling in, and because she thought it would never stop, the $$ was rolling out! Before she knew it the operation had dried up, and she was flat broke. OUCH! But there is a BIG lesson to be learned here…
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- Be yourself. Pure, simple, beautiful. Be yourself.
Small Business Resource
- Creative Market: Buy and sell handcrafted, mousemade design content like vector patterns, icons, photoshop brushes, fonts and more at Creative Market.
Best Business Book
- The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
John: Yes! Kristen is a die-hard entrepreneur, television personality, and goofball blogger. She believes that the greatest mistake of all is doing nothing because you think you can only do a little. She’s passionate about branding, creating content with personality, and being blonde. Kristen, say, “What’s up?” to Fire Nation and share what’s going on in your world right now.
Kristen: Wow, there’s so much going on in my world. Hey everybody. First of all, the being blonde part, I actually just touched up my roots the other day, so that’s so true.
John: And Fire Nation, this was her intro not mine.
Kristen: But yeah, I guess the biggest thing about my intro to start is I’m super passionate about branding. And as you can kind of tell with the intro that I wrote, that’s something I like to focus on with all of my projects. So all jokes aside, I am blonde, I am a goofball blogger, but I believe in branding and showing off who you really are. So that’s why I wrote that.
John: You know, I love showing up in the world as the person that you really are and not enough of us do that by any stretch. So just coming on and being like, “You know what? I am blonde. But you know what? I like being blonde and I’m gonna work it.” Because that, Fire Nation, when you really take and just own who you are, that’s where the magic happens. And Kristen, we’re gonna really get to know who you are in this next section that I call the one minute mindset. This is gonna be five insights into your mind. So five questions, five insights. Take about a minute-ish to answer each question, the first one being, ideally what do the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
Kristen: Get up, have a cup of coffee, hit the gym and kind of do maybe a three-step to-do list. I don’t like to do anything more than that because I found with too many things on my daily to-do list I get overwhelmed and then nothing gets done. So ideally I think I make that three step to-do list and usually start cracking pretty close to after that. And then I’m on my laptop essentially for like the next 10 hours.
John: That’s how we roll. And, Kristen, I think that might be a weakness as well is that, you know, just too much screen time, but we’ll talk about that in a little bit because we want to focus on what you consider your biggest, your No. 1 weakness as an entrepreneur?
Kristen: For me, my No. 1 weakness is definitely shiny ball syndrome. And I’m also a Gemini so if you’re huge into astrology then you know that I definitely have shiny ball syndrome. But sometimes I really – I’ll get involved in one project and I’ll be super passionate about it and then it slowly just fades, my energy just fades, and I kind of see the next big thing, the next big project or money maker or whatever it is that grabs my interest. So over the past couple of years I’ve really try to hone in on that weakness and not be that way because that’s not productive at all.
John: Yeah, and let’s be honest, whether you believe in astrology or not, you can’t use your sign as an excuse…
John: …to be distracted. And I love the phrase weapons of mass distraction. They are everywhere, Kristen. We can’t avoid them, that’s just the world that we live in, but we can learn to put those blinders on and just laser focus on tasks that we need to do. And so that is a weakness, I’m glad you’re working on it, but what’s your biggest strength?
Kristen: For me, my biggest strength is believing in myself. I mean, everything I have actually, 100 percent set my mind on doing, I always follow through with. And some people might believe it’s like the speaking it into existence thing where I say I’m gonna do it and then I believe I’m gonna do it because I said it. But for me, I kind of believe more that I just have that drive to get things done and when I’m really passionate and 100 percent into something, I always get it done. Always. It always happens.
John: Get it done. And confidence is so often undervalued as a trait. I mean, we, again, we talked about being yourself, but you need to believe in yourself to be yourself. And so you put those two things together and you really have some starting ingredients of a pretty great concoction there. So, Fire Nation, believe in yourself first. Be yourself second and let the world see that. And Kristen, you have some good habits, but you also have some bad habits. What’s a habit that you wish you had?
Kristen: Oh, I wish I could prioritize. I’m good at organization, I make to-do lists, but when it comes to priorities I have a really hard time figuring out what I should do first, what I should do last. Things that might be important today and things that may be unimportant until next week. So for me, I wish I could prioritize. That would be awesome. I would be a killer. I would be slaying every entrepreneurial task if I could prioritize.
John: You could put on that ring and be like Captain Planet and have that one skill come to you and it was prioritization, you would be the king and queen of super planet.
Kristen: Oh, yeah, don’t mess with me. Yeah, don’t mess with me if I could do that.
John: Yeah, prioritization’s fun. There’s actually a tool that I use called WorkFlowy that just allows you to kind of like write things down on a to-do list, but then just so easily drag and drop things so you can actually go about your day prioritizing. But, you know, it goes back to the core. You have to know it to prioritize to make that prioritization worthwhile, of course.
Kristen: And you have to wanna do it, too, I feel like.
John: Oh, Kristen, you have some cool things going on, we know that. But what is the one thing, above all those cool things, that has you most fired up?
Kristen: Right now, I’m really into branding and using branding in content marketing. So content with a personality. And I know this whole content is king thing, we’ve heard that beat down for the last five years. But this year I really feel like with content marketing, it’s about putting a personality into your podcasts, your blog posts, your infographics, whatever it may be. I’m really fired up about finding personality within content marketing this year.
John: Yeah, I love how we’re really growing this theme. It started with you sharing what’s going on, what has you excited right now, and it continues on to here. And that theme, Fire Nation, is really look in the mirror. Identify who you are and how you want to be seen in the world and hopefully those two things are congruent and then just amplify it. Find ways to amplify that true self within. Be that personality that you know you are and amplify it through blog posts, through infographics, podcasts, videos, Instagram, you name it. Amplification, baby.
And Kristen, we’re gonna talk about your journey now as an entrepreneur. And you know as a listener, I love stories. So I’m not gonna let you get away without telling a real juicy, meaty, real story, just like a real story. So take us through what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment. Take us there and tell us that story.
Kristen: Well, first of all, I just wanna put out that disclaimer that there’s been many.
John: Disclaimer noted.
Kristen: There’s been many, but that’s why you need to be successful, honestly. I would say one of my worst…
John: Nope, nope, not one of the worst, the worst.
Kristen: The worst, okay, yeah, you’re disclaiming me back. Let’s see, the worst I think was back in June of 2013, I sold an online corset business that I had been working on for about six months. It was wildly successful. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, but somehow it was wildly successful. But, anyways, I sold that business back in June of 2013 and for the next three to six months I really went on a huge spending spree and I had no thought of how my income source was gonna be in the future.
So I would say my worst moment was, I guess, three to six months after I sold my business. I was two months behind on my rent, I was in a beautiful apartment that I couldn’t afford. I was six months behind on my other bills and I literally, at one moment, was surviving off of Crystal Light and Club Crackers. Which I’m laughing now, but it wasn’t funny back then.
John: I know. It is not funny until it’s in hindsight.
Kristen: Yeah, so for me, that was my worst moment, but I remember at that time thinking, “You know what? It was so good that I went through this,” because I was getting too cocky, honestly. I needed to know what it felt like to go without before I can move on with my next venture. I really believe that. But that was my worst moment by far.
John: So let’s dial in here for a second. You had this course that was wildly successful, at the time you thought…
Kristen: It was a – I’m gonna correct you just quickly. It was a corset business. Corset, like corset.
John: Oh, corset. Got it. Got it. Corset business that was wildly successful, you thought you knew everything about everything and in hindsight you’re like, “I knew nothing about anything.” But, you know, that’s the world – we’re present moment creatures. We live in the present. So looking back, having made that mistake, what would you really want Fire Nation to take away and just kind of really sum it up for us in one sentence. What do you really want us to learn from that experience in your life?
Kristen: I would definitely say you cannot do everything. Being a control freak might sound cool in theory, but you really can’t do everything, especially if you have a business and you’re an entrepreneur, you will burn out. If you try and do customer service, shipping and handling, Facebook marketing, you cannot do everything. And that’s, literally, exactly what I would say about that situation.
John: Yeah, so find that team as you’re growing that can take things off your plate, those virtual assistants, that project manager, that partner potentially, if your business is growing. Because you can’t be the cog at every single turn in your own business, Fire Nation. You need to grow, leverage, and scale and you can’t do it alone. So, Kristen, let’s kind of move forward now, or backwards, this is your story, your call, but I want you to take us to an ah-ha moment, an epiphany that you had at some point in your journey. You’ve had a ton, but which one do you think is gonna resonate most with Fire Nation? Take us there to that moment and tell us that story.
Kristen: Oh, wow. Okay, so for me, a huge epiphany I had was within the last year. I auditioned for a reality TV show, I’m always doing different crazy things, so that’s another disclaimer.
John: Nice. Have you ever been on any reality TV shows?
Kristen: Yes, I was. It was on Fox in September and October, but it got canceled. But it was on Friday nights for a while, so more of a comedy. But anyways, that was my new product is I wanted to be on a reality TV show and I approached it from a branding perspective. How can I sell myself so I can get cast? And for me, I made it all the way to the final auditions and I was sitting there with a couple casting directors, a couple producers and I literally had an epiphany. This isn’t about necessarily being who you think you are, it’s about selling yourself, and maybe this is fortunately or unfortunately, but in the world of television, being who you think they want you to be.
Because with TV what people don’t understand is it’s still a business. They still need to make money. So I was sitting there and they were asking me questions and just little take aways I took as, you know, they wanted you to be bold, they wanted me to be myself, they didn’t want me to be wishy-washy. They asked me questions like, “What do you hate?” And I was like, “Well, I don’t really like…” And they were like, “No, we want to know what you hate.” So that’s another thing that speaks to the personality theme we have going on here, is really being yourself, being bold in yourself and being proud of that because that will take you far.
John: See, I kind of like the contrast we’re talking about here, where a kind of slimy, sleaze bally, reality TV, you need to kind of pretend to be who they think they want you to be and unfortunately, probably, continue to be that person throughout the entire reality TV show or you’re gonna get a little, kind of, butt slap by the producers. But in the world that we live in, as content marketers and online producers of content, whether it be through blogs, through podcasting, through video, if our true, authentic self isn’t shining through, that’s going to be so obvious and clear to every single one of the listeners, the viewers, the readers.
Because you just can’t fool people when it comes to you putting your brand forward and then being inauthentic about it. And let me kind of maybe even rephrase that a little bit. Sometimes you can fool people for a little bit, but you’re not gonna fool people for a meaningful time and for a meaningful career. And why would you want to? Especially when you could be so successful being who you are and who is just shining through you from within. So, Kristen, break it down, girl. What’s one lesson that you want us to walk away with from that kind of slimy reality TV show experience?
Kristen: There’s someone out there exactly like you. And I say that because so many times we feel like to be popular, even in content marketing you can say that too, to go viral, or whatever it is, you have to use a certain language, certain terminology, certain filters on your Instagram. I mean, you can break it down to so many little things, but honestly there’s someone out there that’s just like you that’s looking for someone like you to relate to. And that’s the biggest thing I took away from reality TV is you can build up this character in your mind, but really when it comes down to it, there was someone out there just like me wanting me to be my authentic self so they didn’t feel so alone.
John: I love that take away. And a little side note, Fire Nation, if you wanna see me on a, not necessarily reality TV, but on a game show, back in 2011, Kristen, I won a car on The Price is Right. Not lying, true story.
Kristen: Oh, I believe you.
John: Go to eofire.com/priceisright and you’ll get to check that video out. It was the hole in one putting, that putting game. So I had to sink a putt for a car.
Kristen: Oh, wow.
John: Go check it out, Fire Nation, it’s quite a riot. And Kristen, I’m not letting you go anywhere girl because we have some awesomeness coming up in the lightning round. But before we get there, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors.
Kristen, welcome to the lightening round where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Kristen: I think society’s formula for success and happiness. So a full-time job with benefits and insurance and a steady paycheck, that’s the biggest thing that held me back.
John: Let me kind of rephrase this for you and you can tell me if you agree or disagree. But it was your belief that you had to follow society’s tradition. Because it wasn’t really society because they weren’t handcuffing you to that vision, but you accepted it just like I accepted it and just like many listeners right now have accepted it for a long time. But we can choose to move out of that. So what are your thoughts on that?
Kristen: Oh, I definitely agree. I guess just understanding, being aware that there’s something more out there besides that I would say.
John: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Kristen: My old boss, she helped me with my corset site a lot, but she told me nothing’s ever gonna be perfect and especially when it comes to websites or blogs. There’s power in a soft launch. So, I guess what I would say is if you’re working on a project put it out there. Don’t work on it for six months, eight months, 12 months, tweaking every little last thing. Because chances are if you just put it out there you’d realize the tweaks you were gonna make probably weren’t valid anyways. So that’s the best advice I ever received is just put it out there and let the audience kind of determine and shape your project.
John: There’s power in a soft launch. I wanna put an exclamation point on that, Kristen. It is so gosh darn true. We tweak the crap out of our stuff and then by the time we’re done tweaking the opportunity’s passed. Get it out there, Fire Nation. I love Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn. His quote is, “If you’re not embarrassed by the shipping of your first product, you waited way too long.” Get it through your head. So, Kristen, is there a personal habit that you do have that you believe contributes to your success?
Kristen: I have a really good sense of self-awareness. You know, knowing where I fit. And even the projects I do, how those projects fit in, how people are going to need my product or need my service. So I think my biggest strength is actually self-awareness and the ability to be reflective on how I’m needed in the world, I guess.
John: Do you have an internet resource, like an Evernote, that you can share with our listeners?
Kristen: I love creativemarket.com because I am so design – I just suck at design. And when I’m putting together new websites and projects, I’m always lacking on the graphic end and it holds me up for weeks on end. So creativemarket.com has photos, icons, vector images that designers make that you can purchase. So that’s actually my best resource.
John: Oh, love that. And if you could recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Kristen: You’ve probably heard this one before, but for me, the one that had the most impact was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. That was such a great book for me. I read it when I was still in college, home for the summer and it kind of started getting – it got me – it started getting me thinking in entrepreneurial mindset.
John: The Last Lecture. I don’t know if I’ve heard of that. That’s gonna go on the goodie list.
Kristen: You have to check it out. It’s a classic, check it out.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know that you love audio so I teamed up with Audible. If you haven’t already you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com. And Kristen this next question’s the last of the lightening round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Kristen: I would go find the most successful person in my area and I would try and learn from them, honestly, because one thing I realized is your ways of success and my ways of success aren’t always gonna be applicable. So I would go find the most successful person in that area and say, “What did you do to become successful? What does it take to be successful here and how can I learn from you?”
John: What I love and I think is so understated these days, be an apprentice. Get out there, find those who are where you want to be Fire Nation. Reach out to them. Say, “What can I do to add value to your life so that I can learn from you?” And guess what? They’re probably gonna say no because they’re probably pretty big deals. But guess what? No. 1, they might say yes and No. 2, even if they say no they’re probably gonna be able to point you in the direction of who they know would be a great mentor for you and that will open up doors continuously. And Kristen, let’s end today on fire, girl, with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, then we’ll say good-bye.
Kristen: I think actually you inspire me with the last thing you said. I think the biggest piece of advice I can give you, or anyone listening, is there’s power in persistence, honestly. If someone says no to you the first time, the second time and a third time, it doesn’t always mean it’s a no, it just means that the solution you’re offering them is not what they’re looking for. So have perspective and find what that person is looking for, whether you’re selling something or you’re trying to find a mentor and how can you offer that solution. So there’s huge power in persistence and perspective.
And for me, you can find me anywhere, just my name Kristen Vanstrom, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, all that good stuff. And I’m actually working on a project right now, it’s gonna be a blog, it’s a branding blog. It will be up shortly and it’s TheGirlWhoWrites.com. So you can connect with me there as well.
Kristen: Oh, yeah, I’m keeping it simple this time around. I’m telling you, I’ve come up with so many crafty business names, I’m just over it. Keeping it simple this time.
John: There’s a great quote by Jason Fried of 37 Signals. He said, “It’s great to be both clear and clever, but when you have to choose between the two always choose clear.”
Kristen: Yep, exactly.
John: …gosh darn clear. And Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you’ve been hanging out with Kristen and JLD today. Keep up the heat, right girl?
Kristen: Yeah, absolutely. And your life is now complete.
John: And head over to eofire.com, type Kristen in the search bar, her [inaudible] page will pop right up with everything she talked about today with her website, everything. And Kristen, I want to thank you personally for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today and for that we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Kristen: It was fun. Thank you.
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