Bootstrapping Queen of Marketing: Fab Giovanetti
11 August 2023
Podcast Episode #8: How to have Depression and Still Be a Fabulous Marketer Anyway
Listen to the episode here or in the video below!
Fab Giovanetti is an award-winning entrepreneur, who supports people making a positive impact through their marketing.
She loves puns, pop culture references, loud music and strong espresso – sometimes one too many. Oh, she is also obsessed with teaching positive impact marketing to the masses.
Rebecca: Welcome to the Female Founderhood Podcast, a raw, as raw as your sashimi, the conversation between two female founders, myself and the fabulous Fab Giovanetti. Am I butchering the Italian accent?
Fab: You're absolutely not butchering, and I love that you gave me a sashimi reference that made me very hungry, so ouch.
Rebecca: Oh my god, that is the thing. Fab and I, we're both immigrants in the UK. But we equally love the startup scene over here. And we actually met at an event full of young, ambitious women. Instantly, I fell in love with this bubble of red ball of energy. So, for listeners who cannot see the video, she is like a bubblegum that never pops.
Fab: Oh wow. It's like a good and a bad thing at the same time. It's just like, it's there kind of bursting. And you're like, is she going? And she doesn't.
Rebecca: And also, she doesn't have an off button. So I'm going to struggle now with this podcast. So here's the disclaimer. I'm now experimenting using a new platform called Riverside FM. So you can tell me if this is good, bad, or worse than my usual episode. But that also means that I only have two hours of recording per month because this is still a free account. Anyway, here I go blabbering. So, Fab is the head teacher. I love that she calls herself a head teacher because here in the UK, but she is secretly a founder of the Alt Marketing School. If only this school existed in my teens, I would have been front, center, sitting and nerding out about marketing.
So tell me, speaking of being a teen, what did you want to be when you grow up?
Fab: Where do we start? That is the answer. Because, Becca, I wanted to be anything. Pretty much, I think the earliest memory was when everybody, I'm just going to go through their kind of mind palace. Maybe a director. At some point, I wanted to be a director. At some point, I wanted to be a dancer. It didn't turn out too well, not for me. At some point, I wanted to be a singer as well. What I know that I've always wanted to be.
Let's put it this way, when I eventually stopped kind of being like, "I want to throw things at the wall because I'm five or 10." But when I was 11 or 12, I told this story, I went to a workshop that I run like this, this month, at the time of recording. I was telling about my first experience with Stephen King, a good old American man who wrote a lot of books. And I was saying in the workshop, the fun story that I talk about, actually, one of my books where I ganded and I graduated from Goosebumps like the series. I read all the books and then I read nothing else for me. And I was like, I am 11 at the time. I was like, "What the hell am I going to read now?" So I wandered into the adult section and I found a really cool cover from a book from Stephen King.
And that was my introduction to him, and I read one book and I was hooked, and I remember that I wrote my first series of short stories. Again, this is how old it was, on a spiral notebook, I guess with a pen, no, a pencil. And now anybody, if you are left-handed like I am, I don't know, are you left-handed or right-handed?
Rebecca: I’m right-handed, but I understand where you're getting at.
Fab: Smudge, smudge-a-lust. Not only this girl was writing, but she was writing with a little pencil, and she was smudging her way through the writing. So you can imagine when eventually we turned into laptops and I could actually, we printed, and my mom blessed, print a couple of things for me of this collection of short stories, but I had to go and read through my smudges. I don't have that notebook anymore, but I still remember it very fondly.
So in answer to your question, a lot of things, I think writer was the main one when I actually settled a bit more on what I really wanted to be. And then journalists as well. I wanted to be a music journalist, which I was for quite a few years as I went from Italy to the UK. So these were the two things I would say that in the more formative years I knew I wanted to be.
Rebecca: And during those, you know, dreaming of this and that, I am not familiar with Italian culture other than my Italian friend just told me that spaghetti bolognese is not Italian food.
Feb: Ha ha. No, everybody. It's the name that is not really Italian. There is an Italian food that is that, but the name is, you two say in Italian, they're like, what? What are you, what are you, what?
Rebecca: Exactly. So,
What is the culture there as you grow up and you want to be all of these professions in your family or in the community that you grew up in? Any indication that some professions are like a no-go for girls?
Fab: Not as much. What I would say is that I've been really lucky that both my mom and my father grumbled about it, but it was still like, it was a good positive grumble. Wasn't much of a talker. Whereas my mom is, she's always like yay. That's the thing I have to give them both credit. Like both of them always allowed me to be who I wanted to be. I've always been very driven. The weird things you boast as a Taipei person, I had no problem doing my homework. I would do them on. I would do it all the time. I would just get it done.
Because then the sooner I did it, the sooner I could do whatever I wanted.
So actually I didn't mind doing it, you know? And I, and I did it on my own because they both worked. So I was with my grandparents. So I just did it on my own since I can't remember. So in that respect, you know, I knew that I kind of, you know, I wanted to show up and work hard because I had ideas of what I wanted to be. And I think that was the main thing. I think it's less of a cultural thing. As it is then, I graduated from uni, Russian and English literature, everybody. Very useful today. And in this day and age, I mean, I guess for my English.
Rebecca: You should finish this war.
Fab: I will. Even if I throw my Akoski at them or Pushkin, it's not going to work. Um, but you know, it's not going to work. But what was interesting about that is that one my problem was I graduated at the time when one of the 50,000 recessions, the people of our generation had to go through, to be very honest. And so that was the thing. It wasn't as much as culturally when I was younger, it was more when I was at the time of having to jump into work.
I realised that culturally, if you want to go into the cultural element, this is when the cookie crumbles, not as women, but as young people in general. Um, there might be a subset when it comes to women, but in general, because it was just like everybody at the time, especially you had to kind of make do with what you want, do what you thought you could do and even the chance of doing something even for free, just to kind of get started, it just wasn't an option. And that's why one of the reasons why I left and I was like, I'm going to go to this other country because even if I have to do it for free for like years, which thankfully didn't happen, but months for sure.
I'm gonna pursue my dream and I felt I had more chances here than there, but not as much because I was a woman or even because of the fact that we were not wealthy, we were like getting by. It wasn't even that because what I wanted to do wasn't necessarily becoming a doctor or a lawyer, putting years and years of university. It was just the fact that there were no opportunities and nobody was actually kind of even encouraging you to try and pursue things that were maybe a bit more ambitious or different. So entrepreneurship wasn't a thing.
It became a thing maybe five years ago instead of 10 years ago like we've experienced when you come here, you know? So everything is a bit backward in that respect. We've fallen behind a lot and I don't know how much we're catching up, but I think I felt it a lot during that time. Does that answer the question?
Rebecca: I think so, but I am now curious, how old are you as of recording?
Fab: I mean, you should never ask a lady her age.
Rebecca: But you're not a lady. Haha.
Fab: I'm absolutely joking. What am I then? If you can only see me shaking my boobs. Anyway, she's shaking her boobs. I am, oh, wait a second, 32 because I'm 33 this year.
Rebecca: I'm 39, but in a few months, I'll be 40.
Fab: Yeah, but look at us. We look so youthful. Nobody will ever know.
Rebecca: I know. And that's dangerous because I still get carded when I buy wine.
Fab: I don't. That's what I knew I made. I was like, okay, not anymore.
Rebecca: Okay, I will start worrying when people give me an approving nod when I pick up my wine like I know, I know you've had a long day, probably a long decade.
Fab: That should be the best thing. I know you had a long decade. Yeah, I did. Thank you very much.
You moved to the UK to study, is that right?
Fab: I did a year abroad studying, but I was studying in Italy, so you know Italian university fees are very different. Yay! Positive, to be honest. So yeah, I came here after I studied, came back home, finished my degree, and then came here to work.
Rebecca: So this was what year? So early 2011? 12?
Fab: Yeah, 2010, 2011.
Rebecca: So this is just for context. This is pre-Brexit, right?
Fab: Oh, yeah, of course.
Rebecca: Yes. So how was it for a European? It doesn't sound right to call an Italian European. You're like your own. So,
What is it like for an EU citizen to find work in England? Pre-Brexit, was it easy or was it like, "What are you talking about? It's equally hard, etc."
Fab: Well, I said it before because the experience that I had at home was either you do whatever you can or you work in a supermarket. Literally, it doesn't matter. It was in that case, it was easier because first of all, I've never been afraid to do random things. So my first job, an official job when I came back, and I wasn't in London yet, I was in Bath, as I mentioned earlier. I was working at Nando's, Nando's represents, and I did a year and a bit at Nando's, and I gave everything to that place because I was like, even if I was hustling, going to gigs, and writing for some UK magazines
Rebecca: What were you doing in Nando's?
Fab: Just flipping chicken, flipping, flipping chicken and getting people into the door. That was my vibe. Babes, I just graduated. I didn't give a damn. I was already living the dream. I was back in a city I loved. I was with my boyfriend at the time, and he was finishing his degree. And I was just like, "I'm working at Nando's, I'm making money." Also, because a lot of people were students and I was pretty much their age. So I, you know, they treated me a lot like a student. It was probably a lot more fun and a lot more kind of enjoying life than it would have been at home in a way. And because I didn't mind doing those things, I kept on doing and going until I moved to London when eventually I was accepted for, I think, a paid internship for music PR.
So that's why I decided to move. But again, I don't think I would have had that kind of opportunity. And then it led to a completely sidetracked paid job. That was how I started in marketing, fun fact. But I don't think it would have happened in Italy in the same way. You know, I probably would have been older, probably would have done different things. Maybe that's where the culture comes in. So in my experience, it wasn't anything that was either hard or not hard because I already knew what I wanted to do next. Instead of just being,
| I'm just going to do this because I just want to be abroad and try new things. I had a path.
I always had, I always say this, for better or for worse, I always know what I'm going to do next.
And that's what I can relate to a lot of my students or even clients that come to me and they're like, "Oh, I don't know what to do next." I'm like, that's the only thing that I can help you with. But it's hard for me to fully relate on a personal level because I always knew. And that's been a blessing I realise now with the wisdom of age.
Rebecca: Oh, the wisdom of wine! Haha
Fab: Um, well, I'm sober so not really, but yeah.
Rebecca: Here's the thing, speaking of sober, just to sidetrack a little bit. I only started drinking when I was 26. I grew up in a Muslim population, so alcohol is taxed at 400%. So unless you can afford it, you're nowhere near a bar. So anyway, as you said, you always knew what you wanted to do next.
When did you know you were going to build your own marketing school?
Fab: Two years ago.
Rebecca: Oh my god, I love this. So what, what?
Fab: Maybe, maybe three years ago.
Rebecca: Okay, So
How did that idea come about? Is it like an idea that came out of the shower or out of a conversation with friends or tell me?
Fab: That's a good point. I would say, so for a bit of context, right before this, I've been self-employed for now almost 10 years. Next year it will be 10 years. And I started as a consultant slash coach, and now I'm still a consultant. So that element is still there as a marketing consultant. I was a business consultant, but nevertheless. Then I created this company called Health Bloggers Community First, which kind of is easy to explain what it is because it's said in the name, Health Bloggers Community. And then it became Creative Impact. So I had that for almost eight years. So that's what I was doing. And I was quite happy doing that because I love the wellness scene. It really helped me. Like I really loved that space. What I loved doing, what I was doing there though, see, this is a thread.
Going back to, you know, what you wanted to do as a child. I never wanted to be a teacher, but I would love teaching stuffed toys because they can't run. All the things that I learned. I learn things, I love to spread what I'm learning. I love to talk about what I'm learning with others. Stuff Toys are included apparently. So even when I was doing Creative Impact, we did events, a lot of editorials, which I loved, and a lot of partnerships and sponsorships, but what I was thriving in was teaching. So towards the end of Creative Impact, which kind of unsurprisingly coincided with the pandemic, I was also doing some side teaching on, you know, when it came to colleges and some companies I still do teaching for when it came to marketing because that's been a constant. We teach marketing in business to wellness entrepreneurs, so it was all that.
And so because things were not going too well with Creative Impact, for a while, it was transitional, and then with the pandemic, literally 75% of our business was offline events. It was a massive pivot and it was really getting to a point where everything changed, and I was struggling to kind of get that passion for it and also to find a way out. So as things are winding down, going back to your original question, I just wanted to do something for fun. That would be me talking about marketing because I knew that was another thing that I love to talk about still with an element of obviously all marketing school in case that you know us. It's all about marketing to hearts.
It's all about positive impact and purpose. You know, we can call it ethical marketing, call it whatever you want. It's just marketing to humans. That's the two things, market to hearts and market to humans. I wanted to find a place that could do that. And I think as I started the podcast, it was just a way for me to blabber because we like to blabber. So, you know, why not do it?
Rebecca: Exactly. Um, you know, when this is the danger of the platform because people like you and I will just use it, abuse it. But can I rewind a little bit? I want you to tell us your mental state because this is what is rarely talked about. Your mental state when the pandemic hits, even before you thought about pivoting because there must be that down in the trenches, pulling your hair, don't wanna get up in the morning. I just want to eat pizza at random hours. That's Italian food, right? Not a New York food. So yeah,
Tell me about that mental state that you were in and how eventually you can come out of it.
Fab: That's a great question. Now the answer probably is a bit more complicated than kind of in and out. I have lived with depression since I was 10. Uh, so, and anxiety was about depression. Depression has been my friend.
Rebecca: Well, depression and anxiety are like Siamese twins.
Fab: Yeah, you know, but anxiety has been, it's grown on me, I think, as I got older and obviously the pandemic heightened that side of it.
But I lived with depression for most of my life. For most of it, for as long as I remember. So in a way, and this comes from me, by the way, it's not like everybody who lives with depression will have the same experience, but from my experience, what I've learned is that I have always had a level of self-awareness around myself. And also, again, not putting words into everybody who has, who lives with depression, but also about my mortality. And I think a lot of us have not really come to terms, especially talking to some friends and even my now husband, not everybody has kind of come to terms with that.
Like even maybe until that moment with the pandemic with seeing so many people around us, you know, it's not just like, obviously, like kind of grief and certain ways, but it was at a mass scale, you know? So again, this is just context as well, but also wanted to answer the question. So because of that, I always had a level of self-awareness as I eventually kind of came through it and learned how to live with it and how to coexist with it. When I was in my early twenties, a bit better.
And I think now that I'm in my thirties is even better. So with the pandemic, I had to literally go back to all of my arsenal and toolkit of things that I knew to help me out. Uh, because then, as you say, anxiety came to the party and I was like, "Oh, you are a new friend. I haven't been around you for a lot," you know, for as long. And it was interesting for me then to be really aware of that and to then find my ways to work through it. The thing for me is that because I lived with, it can go in different ways. It can be a bit of the fog.
It can be sometimes just heightened emotion, but for such a long time, I think for me, I almost felt it more afterwards as things got a bit better, as things kind of calmed down, then I felt the pressure more because I realized for how long I've been trying to be strong for everybody else, including myself. So it's been less like that element of not being able to get up in the morning. Because, to be honest, some days for no reason, I just can't. And that's just how my brain works. And I have to be kind of gentle with that. You know, so I think I don't know if he answers the question, but I think the reason why it's hard for me to pinpoint it is because it was one different way that triggered some things that were already kind of my, my not normal experience, but a common one for me.
Rebecca: How about sharing some of the tools that probably listeners can apply because not everyone has access to diagnosis, medication, and therapy. So what if I imagine there's a broke girl like me needing, okay, give me some tools. I'm depressed.
Fab: Well, again, it's hard for me to speak for others because I also find that then, you know, it's hard for others to speak for me because it's such a unique thing. What personally has worked for me always has been, well, writing has been a big outlet for me. So, you know, people say journaling.
I think there is a reason because especially when I was really young, it was hard for me to understand what my brain was kind of going through. I was very young. So I wrote it down a lot and I think the writing, now that I'm older, is also the vocalising and talking to people about it. My best friend, again, my husband, that's my speed dial whenever I'm not feeling right. And also I think it's helping, this kind of sounds weird, but because I can tell you meditation, meditation works. Yes, go and do it.
But I want to tell you some things that maybe you're not thinking about, which actually are more powerful than we realise, which is also helping the people around us understand how to help us the best when we are how we're feeling. Because people naturally would want to fix things or help by solving problems or trying to find solutions. And a lot of times, for example, for how I am, I just need that space. I need to say, "I'm not feeling great. I need to just be on my own. It's not you, it's nothing else. It just is." And then it allows me to kind of just think easier and kind of step back.
But it's the hardest thing, communication, because it needs a level of self-awareness that can be kind of exhausting until you learn how to live with it. You know, absolutely.
Rebecca: I think even just in general, as women or humans who menstruate, we have that PMS, right? Every cycle we have that. Just being aware of that. Like, shit, why am I offended by something that normally I'm not offended by? That's good self-awareness. That's why I'm happy when my phone tells me, "Your period is coming up." So, it just means that A, stop wearing white jeans. B, B? Just know that if you're offended this week, it's not you, it's the hormone.
It's not like you become less empathetic or you become bitchy. No, it's just that your hormone is giving you a different lens towards whatever messages you are consuming. And I think it's a similar way as if you have a mental condition, neurodivergent, etc. It's super great when you are aware. Plus, and this is what you're advising us, to create a low-key manual, like a user's guide. Like, this is how to communicate with me when I'm being overwhelmed. Or this is how to communicate with me when I'm burned out. Or this is a good practice to share with your friend, just before you start venting, you probably make a disclaimer.
Look, I just need you to hear me out. I'm not trying to find a solution. I just need somebody with an earshot. You know, so I think having that user's or viewer's disclaimer at the beginning would help. Now, let's fast forward to building the school. Let's fast forward to building the school because as we know, it's not like when you have depression or a mental health condition, it's not like, oh, I had it from 1999 to 2001. You just have it. It's part of you. It's like your ear. You don't feel your ear until you have an infection or something.
But so you had the idea to build a school, right? And of course, it's gonna be an online school, especially since it's a pandemic baby.
What did you do first?
Like, did you think about, did you build a business plan first? Did you find a name first? Did you secure the domain name? What did you do? Tell me about the early days.
Fab: The pandemic baby, I like that analogy. That's what it felt like. I think the name of the school came naturally with the name of the podcast because again, Sarah has a podcast. So I was like, well, I want us to be different. So alt, alternative. So that was it, which is funny because every single time I say it, especially when I'm doing captions, it turns out as all because I don't say alt. So it's so funny. It's like "old" and I'm like, it's not "all marketing school," that it's hilarious. Anyway, so if anybody thinks that it's, it happens more often than I like. But you know, also when you've been in the business long enough when literally you and others just call it, I just call it AMS because that's what it is, Alt Marketing School, and it's faster.
At the beginning, I would just kind of always say the full name and I was like, anyway, that was naturally happening because of the podcast. That was the first step, I would say. When it comes to actually then it becomes an actual school and not just a podcast. So I have run two successful crowdfunding campaigns and I wanted the school to be supported enough for me to really run the certification, which is our main. It was, now is not, but it was our main offering.
So the kid, the business model was all around that because I still had a creative impact at the time. So I was trying to figure out how they could coexist. That was my first thinking. So I was like, I'm just going to do certification on the podcast. But for the certification, I wanted to have guest teachers, which we do have and, uh, you know, I wanted to have more support. I didn't want to start fully bootstrapped.
Um, and like a spoiler alert, the crowdfunding didn't work out. I understand why, you know, so we can talk about it, but I just want to say, I understand why, but it didn't work out, which means I was like, excellent. Back to a drawing board. And then I was really lucky that as, because I did a lot of market research for the crowdfunding too, just to understand what the certification would look like, the messaging, I then waited and I remember I was on my honeymoon. They like to call it my honeymoon or mini-moon because it was so pandemic. So we called it the mini-moon. And, uh, and I got this email back because somebody said to me, like a friend of a friend, they connected.
They were like, why don't you try and apply to join this platform that gives you all the access for like cohort-based courses, which is kind of what the certification is. You have to go through the application. At the time we had to send like examples of case studies and market research to prove that this was going to work. And I was like, I'm going to do it. So I thought, see, they're probably not going to accept me who cares. And they did. So thanks to them, which is Maven, the platform that we partner with for our cohorts, thanks to them, I was then able to do this course. Still bootstrapped. So still very much kind of counting our pennies, but I was able to do it and it just kind of arrived at the right time.
So it took a bit of a break. And then after literally two months, I did this application and it worked out. So these were the first steps. So a couple of good things, a couple of lessons, that's what I'm going to call it. Cause I genuinely believe it was for the best, but so yeah.
Rebecca: Um, so tell us why, why do you think just so that we can learn from your mistake? Why even as a successful crowdfunder before, why did this not work?
Fab: I believe it was definitely one thing, and then it could be a combination of others. Obviously, this also happened during the, I'm just trying to remember like my, again, brain palace, mind palace, it was, I think, still in the middle of the pandemic. Not the beginning, but in the middle. So at that time as well, I genuinely think that this is a bit of an external kind of reasoning, but I think that also didn't help as much because priorities were very different, especially when you're looking for crowdfunding, not for people to actually take the course. That's not how we did it. But I think the main thing was that it's something that I listened to on other podcasts and it really rang true to me.
This is Justin Welsh, who's really famous on LinkedIn and Twitter and is a solopreneur, he was talking about how if you could start again, it would really focus on brand awareness, like for as long as you physically can as a fellow marketer, I think you'll understand before then you do an ask. And I think because of the magical world of the internet, we see a lot of people that do something, launch fast, and you know, there's the kind of the unicorns of this world, but actually building that rapport, building that audience fit takes time. And I think because I had a really strong audience with Creative Impact and a really loyal audience, which we're grateful for, I felt that then would be a no-brainer that this will work for the school, which is me, again, my mispositioning in my brain.
The audience that I was talking to for the school was completely different.
So it's hard for me then to kind of expect without any brand awareness, without any kind of education and also kind of that trust-building experience, the crowdfunding would not have worked. Why did it work for my book? Because it was me, and I was talking to my audience for the book. For Creative Impact, I think after four years that we were in business and I did the old bootstrapped and then we up-leveled there. This time I was looking for something bigger from my audience that didn't even know me, and there are some people that can do that. Don't get me wrong. But I know that for what we wanted to build, I also realized that's why I said that less than not necessarily a mistake.
It would have been the wrong way anyway because I think I would have pushed myself to build something too fast without actually having to be forced to do it small and learn a lot along the way. I don't think I would be able to implement as much as I had, I did, which is why, you know, our certification, everybody loves it. Everybody raves about it. Everybody, after they experienced it, it's life-changing. Not putting words into mouth. Because after every single one I implement, because they're still small enough for me to talk to every single person that will allow me to talk to them afterwards and make changes.
So mispositioning and not really kind of reassessing the lenses of how big we were and how much people knew us was probably one of the main reasons. Coupled with the timing, it was just, you know, it was probably bound to happen. Um, but then also another thing and all done because we talk about it a lot. And it's annoying, and I want to hear your opinion on this. Also, my intuition told me like, this is not the right way for you to do it, but I didn't know any better. I didn't know how else to do it. I didn't want to have investors as well because I really wanted it to be mine, especially at the early stages. I wanted to shape it exactly how I wanted it to be. I was very particular about it because that's our ethics.
And I was like, I want to do it my own way. And my everything in my body and my gut was telling me this is just, you can do it, but it's not the way. And, you know, so whenever I thought about it afterward, I was like, I knew it. I didn't feel scared excited. I didn't feel like, oh, this is being excited. No, I genuinely feel like, nah, no, no, no, no. And I want to hear your opinion about this now as well because you talk about it a lot as well, and with leadership especially. I think it's hard for you to learn how to trust your intuition until you actually learn how to trust your intuition, until you do things and kind of get that feedback from yourself.
Because everybody tells you to trust your intuition. And I love this advice, but also infuriates me because I'm like, how are people supposed to know?
Rebecca: Exactly. You know? There's intuition and then there's hindsight. What you have now is hindsight. And here's, this is what I see a lot, unfortunately, in women navigating any sort of relationship, be it business, be it personal. We see red flags as a challenge sometimes. Isn't it annoying? Because it's true. And if I'm completely honest, this is exactly why I would love to have even more conversation.
I would love to have this type of conversation every single day because intuition is if life is a massive tree that we have to chop and intuition is the axe, the way we do our life and we interact, the media that we consume, that is what will sharpen the axe before we start chopping down the tree. So for me, when people say, oh, I have good intuition because I'm older or because of this, but I fully believe it really then you have to... I think...For example, if you listen to so many true-crime story podcasts, your quote-unquote
Fab: Which I definitely don't
Rebecca: I don't, but your quote-unquote intuition when it comes to public safety, you know, and security will be completely sharper than others. So it really then, I would encourage women when you are ambitious like us and you only have 24 hours a day just like everybody else the real estate in your brain is crucial for you to keep the real estate for something that will heighten your senses and sharpen your intuition like so it really depends on the input and then the output. But then the trusting bit I think it's like, I also, so many times there's an opportunity that I, of course at the beginning we always say yes, right?
To everything, especially myself, it's out of fear that the world or the universe doesn't see how grateful I am to be given an opportunity. I don't know if it's culturally or gender-wise that I'm like, “Rebecca, somebody's giving you work, just accept it.” But what I've learned with intuition, age, wisdom, and what have you, at least now, even if I see a red flag and saw it as a challenge and took it anyway, I know when to stop it. So probably in your case, you knew that it wasn't right anyway and as soon as it didn't work, you're like, okay, let's start building and snowball and snowball and iterate and snowball instead of because we see a lot of companies crumble as soon as they get funded, ironically, right? So yeah, and there you go.
Like, okay, listeners, subscribe to Fab's newsletter and my newsletter. That is basically the whole rambling to plug our newsletter. But honestly, it's like when I see Fab's newsletter come to my inbox, I immediately open it because I know all I want to do is to make myself a little bit smarter, a little bit, you know, ahead of the curve because what is intuition if it's not, you know, a collation of information and signals that will help you make a better decision, right? So yeah, so that's my, my preach.
Fab: I love it. First of all, yes, all of that. So like, yeah, all that. And can I add one more thing, which is going to resonate with us as marketers, but I think also with any kind of founder, I think. So when I talk about marketers, I think there are two skills that are super important for marketers, but then I will almost flip them back, especially for female founders, but in general founders, I think they're really valuable if you ask me. So for marketers first, curiosity and creativity. So with creativity, though, I look at it as just kind of tapping into interesting ideas, but then the curiosity allows us, which is kind of going back to you, talking about the newsletters inspiring you.
Curiosity also means being brave enough. So I guess that's three, but curiosity in being brave enough to try things and see what doesn't work. And I think as a marketer, as marketers for a very long time, something that we are taught that this is what we want to teach our students as marketers. Try stuff, try things because especially in the digital space, things change all the time and you don't have control over everything. So if you don't try, you don't know if your audience is going to resonate, if things are going to work for you.
And that's why my approach with the crowdfunding taught me that as well. I was like, well, I tried it. What have I learned from it? What are the things that then as you say, I can teach others or bring awareness to others that are not going to make the same mistakes. And I think we talk about confidence, which is amazing. We talk about, you know, we talked about other things as well. We had a previous conversation about leadership. We talked about all the different skills. But I think, again, and that's for marketers and really useful for everybody else, are not being afraid to tap into our curiosity. And I should kind of let our creativity go wild a bit more. And it can be stifled so much. And I think you probably will know better than I do.
I never worked in a corporate job. I only worked in startups. But I think there are so many industries and so many companies and so many even levels like on leadership, they were actually stifled the creativity for results, for ROI, for, you know, outcome for driving, driving, driving, driving, driving towards the headlights. And I'm like, why can't we just slow down and actually embrace trying things, see if they work and if they don't, how can we make them better?
Rebecca: I think your next tattoo should be A-B testing. Just A and B.
Fab: I mean, sexy.
Rebecca: And I'll know what it means.
Fab: And everybody else who listens to the podcast will know.
Rebecca: Absolutely. So now, I ask this question a lot to fellow female founders because I see it day in and day out, how we struggle pricing ourselves. To me, that is the massive implication of imposter syndrome. People think imposter syndrome is just like fear of public speaking or whatever, but it goes straight down to our bottom line. The fact that we are conditioned to be gentle, meek, to go with the flow, to go with what the market says, hurts our bottom line.
So how did you decide on your pricing when you started the school?
Fab: Oh God, I think that's an excellent question. And I think again, we talk about it a bit more these days, but not enough. So let's keep talking about it.
Exactly. Yeah. Uh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, for the school, it was easier because actually I had at the time, maybe six years of business or seven almost, uh, you know, of, of, um, you know, working from that, so I've done pricing for the, for Creative Impact, I've done pricing for my consulting, you know, I've done pricing in so many ways that I kind of know, and also for my clients a lot, because I was working with a lot of entrepreneurs myself. So you can imagine.
And I always find, I want to say this, first of all, it's always easier to help others with their pricing than yourself. One of the things that I actually, you know what I mean? One of the things that I go back to, so there's one practical thing I want to give everybody, but also want to say that another thing that really helped me was just talking to my husband as a sounding board and just being like, what are your opinions? Because obviously, again, stereotyping, but there is some truth in that, you know, the kind of driven male like you should charge more, this should be more. And it kind of helped me also understand why would I justify charging less for some of the things and then also appreciating actually how much work I would put into stuff. There's something that people say that I read literally the other day on Instagram, which is:
you know, you shouldn't charge for the one hour that you're spending with people, but for the 10 years of experience you have.
And I think it's kind of finding that middle ground of understanding. There's two things here that I want to say. So first of all, before I give you the practical element, also, what life do you want to lead and how the way that you price yourself, the way that you grow your business is going to help you with that. The way you want to scale your business is going to help you with that. If you think that maybe you want to charge a bit more and give more, let's say, hands-on support or a different kind of, you know, client base, because you want to work with fewer people and have more time and freedom. That's totally fine.
If you maybe want to produce products that are for the masses and you're happy to kind of really work and be part of your company and grow it from that case and scale that maybe you decide to make, you know, to find pricing that can allow for smaller, lower-hand products. I don't know. You know, there's that also to remember sometimes it's like, it's great to charge more to make more money, but is it going to cost your values and how you want to live your life because they are going to find yourself working yourself to the ground. So that's the other thing, you know, is that balance on a practical level.
My main thing I want to say, they really helped with the school. So I, what I do every time we finish a cohort, I kind of update our release notes so they're publicly on the website. You can find them. If you go to our certification page, you will find that the bottom it says, check out what's new. And that has been an exercise that has helped me doing what I say my clients and our students to do as well sometimes, which is think about everything that you are doing or everything that is included in the experience of working with you. And obviously, the release notes allowing me to write it down and see it and publicly share with others. And I realised that for our eight-week cohort, the amount of work that we do, the amount of support that we give, the personalised experience that we provide to all our students is not worth less than two and a half, I mean, it's two, six, five.
But it's not worth less than two and a half grand. As simple as that.
We offer solutions to help with financing and also we have some scholarships. But overall, that was the pricing that felt right, because I was able to look at everything that we do and we provide. So that really helps is kind of looking at actually what is the experience you're providing, not just that hour of teaching, not just that hour of the workshop. How is everything working together? That's really helped me massively not undercharging for the school, pretty much ever, I would say that's been, but I've done it so much for everything else I've done.
So talking to my husband helps me to bring perspective, but also to remind myself or actually, you know, what is the reason why undercharging or if I'm overcharging, which rarely happens, writing and everything and kind of getting an idea of where your time is going and everything that you are actually doing for that specific service or product. But yeah, always be mindful of, and again, this is where I would love to hear your opinion, that balance of charging more because you want to grow or scale. You think that's your path.
But then also being honest with yourself and being like, is money really that element of money is my priority or is it more like finding a way to then free my time and reclaim my time? How are they going to work together and how is it going to help me lead a life where I work the way that I want to work? I would love to hear your opinion on that because I know it can be really contentious, grow, grow, grow more, more, more. But then I love my time and I value it so much.
Rebecca: Oh, 100%. Look, two things about pricing. From my observation, there are only two ways, as you said. Either you charge premium or you charge mass market. If you go to the middle of the road, in any way, when you're middle of the road, you're not pleasing anyone, right? You're not attracting anyone. So I agree with that approach and the second thing is about growth. This is what is interesting so at Upgrading Women, we have a marketing agency as well and because… well, let's toot my own horn because I can do everything myself from public speaking, designing, copywriting, strategising, whatever you, I can just quote unquote be a freelancer and serve my agency client that way and absorb all of the revenue and profit for myself. But then is that, as you said, the life that I want to lead?
I just but well in short evidently it's not. I want to build a team of fellow ambitious women that share the same values and share the same taste as well 'cause we work in creative, right? So I can a - distribute the wealth and b - I can then serve more clients and spread more words, basically grow and I'm not even taking a salary, but I want to make sure that my team members get a salary on time and that their salary is adjusted. As soon as I can see in the project management tool that they are working more than they normally do, they get bumped, salary bump.
And there's no arbitrary like, oh, every six months we're going to review. No, as soon as, the more you work, the more you earn that's our internal business model. But yeah, this is the life I want to, I'm not going to buy a new car in the next couple of years because I would rather the more revenue that, or the more clients that we have, the more women, the more jobs that I'm creating. Like that is what I want to do. I think I remember telling someone yesterday, this is a long game for me.
Upgrading Women just started in 2022, and I'm building this company as part of the inheritance for my daughter. So I think I'll be rich when I'm an old grandma wearing Prada. But for now, I'm like, oh my God, I want to, and I love what you said about brand awareness. This is my day to day, even though again, I can do all the client delivery myself if I wanted to, but what I'm doing is the business development, the networking with people like yourself, spreading awareness through blabbering on all over podcasts and social media.
So that's what, that is the life that I wanna choose because then within a couple of hours, I can pick up my kids from school. Right. And that is the one thing that any salary cannot replace. So, um, a lot of people think that, oh yeah, but we have to hustle, etc. Well, that's fine. It really, I envy people, genuinely envy people without caring responsibilities, you know like without kids, without pets, without parents or siblings. Because then this is basically me 15 years ago, I knew my life then, it was just work, work, work. And I just charge whatever.
A lot of times I choose not to get paid as long as I can get the big brand name on my CV. So yeah, as you mentioned, selecting the pricing, a lot of people forget to put the element of the level of comfort which is tailored to just you as a founder. Now I want to ask you about choosing a spouse as a female founder. You mentioned that your husband is your sounding board. What do you think a good female founder out there is still single or still considering what to look for and or what are the red flags like okay this is a no-no for a spouse for a female founder
Fab: I mean, I think it's, what I want to say is I have a lot of friends who are female founders, and they all have, I've met all the husbands or wives, and they're all different, like Mike is one of his own and is perfect in every way because we're compatible as human beings. That's what I would personally say. Like it's not even the funny thing is that if you are a founder, then you will have potentially more self-awareness because we talk about you need it for so many things. You will have different priorities, but then you could argue that for different types of job, you will have random working hours or working nights or working weekends.
So I think if anything, it forces you maybe a bit more to think about, you know, how can I find somebody that really compliments who I am as a person? Whether it is, you know, both your love language, but also, you know, your communication, what are your priorities? I would say in general, in any relationship, whether it is, uh, you know, a really good friendship, you know, there are the kind of, what was it called? The shoe friendships is something I don't remember the name of it. It's like, it's something like the friendships that you kind of like, you know, you see them every, every year and you're like, fine, you know, it's good, but really good friendships or something about shoes. Let me know what it was 'cause it literally is something about shoes.
I remember I read it before. But really good friendships, just like any kind of relationships. So even if it is a romantic relationship, you know, aligning our priorities is crucial. And I think that's another very, very important thing, aligning of especially personal priorities. Um, so again, probably a cop-out answer to the question, but honestly, you know, we found each other and we just work because we are. We work so well together as human beings and it doesn't matter. Like you obviously, you know, there's a cliché, he always supports me, which he does.
And that really matters because, you know, but also supports me, especially with my mental well-being and that in itself is also like very much ups and downs. I always said that running a business is like a roller coaster, being on a roller coaster every single day, all day. That is what literally is running a business. So I would almost say that it's kind of feeling very similar when it comes to also, you know, like living with, you know, a mental health condition and he is willing to learn how to work together towards anything. And that's all that matters the most to me. So if that can be maybe one thing to look for, that might be something, you know, can you work together through things? Can you learn from each other? Are you willing both of you to put the work to become better people together? Yeah. If the answer is yes, then probably you got a good egg.
Rebecca: I think the interesting one would be especially those who started as a couple before their entrepreneurship journey. Then it becomes interesting because it's absolutely a different routine, different headspace. And I love it when you said find someone that can support you. I'm always imagining if you see your partner can be also your partner in the amazing race. You know? Then you should marry them. Because it's like the ups and downs, the challenges that you have to work together. It doesn't mean that you have to have the exact same personality, skill set, etc. But it's the compatibility. And when you're under such pressure in public, etc. towards a goal and you're bickering instead of, okay, let's grab that tuk-tuk and run.
Then it's a completely different vibe. So my last question to you. And I forgot to tell you this, but I always say that women can be king as well, not just queen, but I wanna ask you like a hypothetical, in the perfect world that Fab designs. So you could complete this sentence, please.
When I'm king. What would you say? What would you do? That's a good... What would I do?
Fab: There are so many things, I suppose. All the things that I could... It depends. So when would I... That's a question back to you. When I am king, what would I do? Or what would I want my people to do or to experience? You know, which...
Rebecca: What will the world look like if we elect FAB as king? Uh, okay. Like free chocolate every day.
Fab: Oh God. Yes. Oh my God. Like no more pineapple and pizza. Yeah. I mean, uh, anyway, I mean, it's probably works, but I wouldn't waste it on that. Not waste. I wouldn't really use that for that. I think that will be a bit reductive. Um, I got it. I think when I am King, we'll learn to love ourselves a tiny bit more. Oh God. Just a tiny bit more. Yeah. You know, just a tiny bit more. We deserve that, I think. And if we do that for ourselves, then we are better for doing it at others. And that makes a hell of a difference.
Rebecca: Love. Or as South Korean pop would say, tiny love. Yeah, tiny love. Like cute Asian love. Well, thank you so much Fab and listeners. If you have fabulous, equally fabulous female founders that you would love for me to be nosy about in their business, just like I have with Fab, tell me, email me, Rebecca at upgradingwomen.com, and I will find that female founder, grab her by the fascinator. And sit with me, lady, and tell me your age. So, yeah, thank you so much, Fab.
Fab: It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Rebecca: Okie doke! So, rate this episode, share it with your girlfriend, and I will see you in the next episode. Let me turn this camera off.
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Upgrading Women Media Group was founded by an immigrant woman-of-colour, mother of three who puts mindset over matter and kindness over frame