Michele Aikens, CEO of Sepia Prime Communications & Consulting (formerly Sepia Prime Woman, Inc), is known as “The BOLD Mover Lady,” or the “Confrontational Dreamer”. Michele consults with businesses and individuals to help them create their own “Bold Moves”. She is a frequently sought after speaker and life coach who talks most often on Balance, Business and Boomers.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
The parent company of the magazine I published made the decision to eliminate the publishing part of the business. I lost my job and lost myself for a couple of years. I was 50 years old and for the first time in my life… out of work.
Tell us about your business.
Sepia Prime Communications & Consulting started out as a consulting business aimed at helping women re-define themselves as business owners or consultants after a job loss or significant life change. We started in 2011, but today we see women and men, and more people under 50 than over. We work with authors, artists and homemakers to help them magnify their voice and influence.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Absolutely! Every year we host a conference in October called The BOLD Move Event. The date is October 20-21, and its being held at the Double Tree Hotel in Alsip, Illinois. We feature two days of workshops and celebration of BOLD Movers. We talk about everything whether its faith or financing, or motivation and marketing, or sales and structure. When someone has to start a business from scratch, especially after working for someone else, the idea of selling or marketing themselves may not come naturally to them.
I was really blessed to receive the Phenomenal Woman in Business Award from the Reaching Back Foundation last year. I’ve written three books, and am releasing a fourth in March of next year called, “Generational Intelligence”. I have also gotten certified as a life coach because I found when I consult with a new or seasoned business owner, the issue isn’t always what he or she needs to do, but how they are processing internally what needs to be done.
Where is your business based?
In the Chicagoland area.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The first thing I had to do was take the business seriously. I find many start a business, but they have a back-up plan in case it doesn’t work. While that sounds good and seems wise, the best chance of making the business work is to be ALL IN. Don’t minimize the business because it’s yours. Do the work. Go meet with people, show up at events, figure out who your business is for, and pursue that audience relentlessly.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
My business is relational. We help people figure out what they are good at and then market them. I don’t turn down “small” engagements; that’s the best place for me to get new customers. I started out teaching “mini” sessions where I could know a small audience and they could know me. Now that we are growing, I’m doing more marketing on social media, but I still take at least a day a month to meet potential stakeholders.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
As someone with a mature and slightly different perspective, I see the fallout when someone with a “sexier” presentation comes along. If you haven’t formed a real connection with your buyer you will lose them to someone sexier, cheaper or sleeker. I challenge the people I work with to market themselves as more than a one-hit wonder, to commit to their goals for the long haul. So many approach business or potential from a microwave or desperate place. “I need it now or I will die!” Or “If this doesn’t work by next week, I’m going to do something else.” My biggest challenge is getting people to invest in themselves long term.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I had to decide to be authentic to our mission rather than going for the quick money myself. When people deal with us they understand that we are here to ensure their success over the long term, and not to make a quick buck off them. That’s unusual today, but I’m beginning to see the fruit of sticking to my guns. I don’t take every client that comes to me; they need to be willing to invest in their own success over time, and to trust us (also over time) to work for their interests.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I consider the beauty of God’s creation and remind myself that I am here for a short amount of time, and for a real purpose. I remind myself that there are voices that won’t get heard if I don’t do my job. I stay motivated by reminding myself that I can change the world – as overwhelming as it may seem – by doing my job for one person, one business, one event. If those things don’t motivate me, I shut down and go to a movie.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I remind people when they tell me another business charges less that “You may save money, but you won’t get me”. I had to learn my value and then own it. We work hard for our clients and I’m proud of that. I do work that I can be satisfied with at the end of the day, and I go home.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
The best advice was from a consulting company I worked with to make sure I was being my most effective. They told me my pet project in the business was taking up too much time and providing too little of a return. I took the advice and eliminated it, and just this morning I had a meeting that will gain me a different set of clients.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t look at what you consider a failure be an end to your dreams. Instead let that failure become a chapter in your book of how you became successful.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
Sunshine Enterprises is a great resource for new, small and growing businesses in Chicago. They provide help in everything from thinking about your business, to financing referrals, to providing community for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I read “Raising The J Man” by Karen Howse. It is the account of life with a down syndrome child. It is a reminder of the resilience that is in us all if we look for it. I’m also reading “Your Next BOLD Move” by Samuel Chand.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I’m learning about markets that are not my specialty and forming partnerships. My specialty is book marketing and coaching; but we are teaming up with people who know about artist marketing. As women owned businesses, I heard in a workshop a few days ago, we need to be bigger to be stronger. That means forming strategic partnerships to create bigger companies that can do more.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My goals for the next few months are to increase our profile so those who are looking for marketing and communications help can find us. (Laughing but serious). We also want to increase the influence of our clients by initiating and encouraging relationships with other stakeholders, like the press, so that our messages are heard clearly and correctly.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Facebook Group www.facebook.com/BOLDMoversNetwork
Hashtags #MakeABOLDMove #TheBOLDMoverLady #womensupportingwomen