How to develop your personal brand as a small business owner

Quynh Mai, Founder of Qulture.
Stephen Mack

  • Building a personal brand as a founder can help your company appear more credible.
  • Choose topics to share or discuss that you are passionate about and that support your business goals.
  • Don’t be afraid to share aspects of your life that relate to your leadership style or values.
  • This article is part of a Small Business Marketing series that examines the basics of marketing strategy for SBOs to gain new customers and grow their business.

Quynh Mai ran a digital creative agency. CultureFor the better part of a decade before starting to build his personal brand as a founder in 2020.

“For many years it was very difficult for me to put myself out there because I wanted the work to speak for itself,” he told Business Insider.

But then he saw a shift in business culture, with consumers wanting to know and trust the person behind the company.

As Mai began promoting herself and her work more through LinkedIn, media and speaking engagements, she spent less time convincing potential clients of the depth of her expertise.

“Creating a personal brand associated with your business is more important than ever because people won’t do business with anyone they don’t trust,” he said. “You want to know where the buck stops—you want to know that there is a person who is accountable for their actions.”

One 2021 surveyfour in five Americans say companies are more effective when their founders or executives have a personal brand that consumers know, trust and follow.

Anouck Gotlib also spent his years as a more silent CEO, running a bakery brand. Belgian boys From headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. At an industry conference in 2021, she attended a session on building a personal brand and began publishing LinkedIn about his journey to start a company.

“I could never have anticipated what happened over the next year,” Gottlieb said in an interview with BI, adding that the personal following he’s built has helped him meet other founders and mentors, build impactful partnerships for his company, and receive invitations to other influencers. -creating opportunities such as conferences and podcast interviews.

“It opened a lot of doors to rooms I wasn’t invited to,” she said.

BI asked Mai and Gotlib for advice on building a personal brand as a founder.

Define your talking points

As a founder, when deciding what topics to talk about on your personal brand channels, Mai suggests thinking about what sets you apart from your competitors or what you have a unique relationship with.

“My agency’s mission is to help brands move into the near future. So as a personal brand, I’m focused on innovation, what’s next, whether it’s trends, Gen Z or AI,” Mai added, though many of her colleagues. talked about the new technology itself, he liked to focus on the human side of technology to differentiate his practice.

When thinking about the messaging he wants to share on his personal brand platforms, Gotlib likes to start with his company’s goals.

Anock Gotlib, CEO of Belgian Boys.
Belgian boys

“Think about what your goals are in business and how you can contribute to those goals as an individual,” he said.

For example, by sharing details about the way to build an interesting partnership for the brand, he was able to develop relationships with customers and connect with potential business partners.

But Mai emphasized that it’s also important to consider your own passion.

“What can you talk about over and over that you’re still incredibly excited about despite being nauseous?” he said.

He added that your authenticity and genuine enthusiasm will stand out to others and make it easier for you to continue promoting your brand.

Share the ups – and downs – of the business

One mistake many leaders make when building a personal brand, Mai said, is talking about only the good things that happen in their business.

“One way to really build a personal brand is to show all sides of the conversation, even if it doesn’t meet your end goals,” she says.

For example, talking about the pitfalls of his industry really resonated with others, he said.

“What’s really important when building your personal brand is that you speak with knowledge and truth, not through this lens: How can I build my business?” Mai said.

Gottlieb agreed that transparency about the more difficult aspects of building a company (along with the wins) ignited and strengthened relationships.

“I’m not trying to sell you Belgian waffles, I’m just bringing you along for the ride,” he said. “I share about our challenges and I think that resonates with people.”

Combine your personal and professional selves

Certain aspects of a founder’s personal life may also resonate with their company’s audience.

When deciding what to share, Mai likes to think about how her personal life can bring value to her business or give her a unique perspective as a thought leader.

“Who cares if I love to bake if it doesn’t help me be a better CEO and entrepreneur?” he said. “But the fact that I live in a multiracial family helps me see the world, and how I see Gen Z and multiculturalism.”

Gottlieb said she’s more likely to share personal aspects of her life if she thinks it will focus on causes and values ​​that are important to her both professionally and privately, such as sharing experiences of her Jewish heritage.

“It’s interesting that these personal things usually resonate the most,” he said.

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