Dawn Dugle is a Business Brand Builder and the CEO of Dugle Media. She has helped small businesses, Fortune 500 companies and even Federal Government agencies build their brands to reach more customers. Ms. Dugle is a solutions-oriented consultant who has spent more than two decades taking a dozen businesses from worst to first. She also earned a spot in the worldwide Top 500 Most Influential CEOs on Social Media.
In 2016, she was asked to create a pilot program on Social Media Storytelling for the Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies - part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the Federal Government. Her training led to a social media policy change at the state level of government in Virginia.
In this interview with Startup Savant, Dawn shares her experiences starting Dugle Media and what she does to make it unique. She also outlines the traits/habits that make her successful along the way and important insight on how to overcome disappointment.
For entrepreneurs starting a business in Mississippi, her advice:
There are a couple of places to help. Mississippi S.C.O.R.E. is a non-profit resource through the Small Business Administration, dedicated to helping “ideas” get off the ground. The Women’s Business Center of Mississippi is dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs get their business off the ground. Y’all Business gives you a glimpse of all sorts of statistics in Mississippi.
How did you get the idea for Dugle Media? Is there something you wanted to do different or better than your competitors?
In 2014, I was working as a journalist and attended an innovation conference. One of the seminars was a series of “angel pitches” that I hoped would be something like “Shark Tank”. Sadly, it wasn’t. There were ten entrepreneurs who pitched, and only one of them got the money. And it was all because of how they answered one question.
The nine who didn’t get the money got up and gave complex and confusing pitches. And at the end of each one, they opened the room for questions. I asked each person: “Why did you come up with this?” (or “Why did you develop this idea?”)
Every time, they responded by rehashing the convoluted pitch.
The tenth guy said: “I wanted to create a tech platform where high schools could broadcast their football and basketball games over the internet – in an inexpensive way. When I looked around, nothing like that existed – so I spent two years creating something to my specifications.”
That guy received $75,000 in angel investment funding after his 15 second answer.
I realized there were so many people out there who didn’t know how to tell their business story, and that was something I could help them with.
I would utilize my background in broadcast and digital journalism to show businesses how to focus their story and where to tell it to the world – in order to gain more customers, investors and the right kind of media attention.
What makes Dugle Media unique from others? How did you find your competitive advantage?
Most marketing and branding companies have experts who are “school” trained in marketing and branding. My 23 years of experience is in storytelling and how to make connections with your audience. I also serve as an accountability partner to my consulting clients. We get focused and I then offer them the tough love when they need to get back on track.
My competitive advantage is that I want to empower businesses to own their brand. You can hand it over to a company managing 20 other brands on social media, but what if you learned how to do it yourself? What if you could hold your own brand in your own hands and tell your own story? No one will tell your story better than you.
What are your visions for your business? Where do you see it in the next 5 years?
My plan/vision for the business is to scale it to help people all around the country. This includes hiring other individuals who can go and share our expertise with businesses. I also plan to offer online courses and books to help those who cannot afford to hire me one on one.
What attitude/habits helped make you successful while starting Dugle Media?
Number 1: Everything can be figured out. When I started out, I had a lot of time on my hands but very little money. So in between clients, I took every online course I could think of: bookkeeping, creating your budget/general ledger, developing a business plan, creating a WordPress website, how to code (simple coding), email marketing, PowerPoint, Keynote, Excel, you name it.
It made me smarter, and more flexible with my business because I wouldn’t get stuck waiting for someone else to do something. Or stuck because I thought something was harder than it was.
Number 2: You have to be patient. “Overnight success” is a huge joke. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but very few people have the patience and stamina to make it a reality.
Number 3: Get used to falling down. I don’t like the word “failure” – since it feels so final. I call it falling down. When something doesn’t go the way you planned or expected, it’s like falling down. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start over again.
Make no mistake about it – you will fall down A LOT. There will be dark days when you fall down every single day of the week and it feels like nothing is going right. But that’s where #2 comes in - be patient when you know you’re on the right track, because…
Number 4: Things get better. One of the things I did early on was create a “Good Things” jar. Every time I learned something new, or had a new success, I would write it down on a big piece of colored paper and put it in the jar. On the days when it felt like nothing was going right, I would pull out the jar and go through all that I had accomplished in the last year. It made me feel a WHOLE lot better and helped me double down on what I was doing.
What was your biggest business mistake and how you did you come out stronger at the end of the day?
Biggest mistake: not creating a sales funnel early on.
Right out of the gate, I landed a HUGE client and was “set” for several months. But I was so good at what I was doing, I worked myself right out of a job (which was the entire point). Unfortunately, I hadn’t been actively working to attract other clients during that period, and when the job was over, it was like starting from scratch, but much harder.
You need to be constantly putting clients into the sales funnel to set yourself up for success. A lot of people will be “just about to sign” with you – which could mean two days or more likely – six months. Never count on anything being a “sure thing” until you have a signed contract or a cleared check in the bank!
Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?
I haven’t had a client disappointed in my services or products.
But there have been clients who were actually disappointed in themselves; the types of disappointment we all feel – things aren’t moving fast enough, they didn’t get the big customer they hoped for, their website crashes, their social engagement isn’t where they hoped it would be, etc.
I sit down with them (or set aside time on the phone) to get to the heart of what’s really going on. In many cases, a small tweak can mean a big change – and often they need that fresh set of eyes to see it for them.
How do you stay focused on a day-to-day basis? Do you have a key motivator that keeps you going and fighting the good fight?
I set deadlines for myself. This project is due by this time, or that blog post is due by then… I schedule blocks of time to create what I need to do, and Fridays are the “clean up and catch up” days – I’ll create content in the morning and take care of anything else in the afternoon. Friday is sacred and only an emergency bumps it.
I also paint myself in a corner. I’ll set a date when something is going to roll out and start promoting it, before it’s finished. It helps me get my act together and get it ready.
When I find the motivation is missing, or my “muse” has left me – I change scenery. I have a corner of my office I call the “Flow Corner” – a recliner where I’ll sit and create. I often will get started and find four hours passes in the blink of an eye. I also created a spot in my backyard when the weather cooperates. And I have access to a co-working place in Fondren, Mississippi that also gives me a change of pace and often kickstarts my focus/motivation.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you are most proud of?
I enjoy the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur. You still have clients, but they’re on your schedule. When I’ve earned their trust, they’re happy to be on my schedule – because when we’re working together they get my undivided attention and they get the best I can offer them.
I’m most proud of my client success stories. The ones who were able to grow their business, finish and publish their book, change directions with a marketing campaign – one that’s simpler and connects better, a company that goes from worst to first…. When they succeed I am proud because I helped them do that!
What do you consider the biggest milestone that you have hit with your business? What was the biggest thing you did to get there?
One big milestone was when people started calling me to be a speaker on the topic of business storytelling – and that first PAID speaking gig was like Christmas! Not because of the amount, but because people recognized that I love what I do and love sharing that with other people so they can be successful. (That then led to me being top of mind for people to hire me as a consultant.)
The biggest thing I did to get there was network like a ninja. (I also teach people how to do this – “How to become a networking ninja”.) You need to be networking all the time. Everyone you meet is a potential connection.
HOWEVER – I don’t go up to people and say “Hi, I’m Dawn – hire me.” I get to know people. I talk to them. I hear what they’re trying to do with their business. I connect them to other people I know. I share interesting tidbits with them. I could have 7 conversations with someone before they ever call me to bid a job, but each time I do it – I get better at it. And now, there are very satisfied clients out there who are singing my praises - even though some of them don’t want to share me!
No matter what business you’re in, you’re in the relationship business. People do business with other people. So when you’re networking, even if you’re not a “sales” person – make no mistake about it – you are selling yourself. You must earn someone’s trust before they’ll work with you.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in Mississippi? Where should they start?
If you want to start a business in Mississippi – there are a couple of places to help. Mississippi S.C.O.R.E. is a non-profit resource through the Small Business Administration, dedicated to helping “ideas” get off the ground. (They have these in every state…)
The Women’s Business Center of Mississippi is dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs get their business off the ground, which can be doubly hard in the Magnolia State.
Y’all Business gives you a glimpse of all sorts of statistics in Mississippi. If you’re starting a business here, you can look up facts and statistics, research your target market (and the competition) and even drill down in a county by county search.
Once you’re ready to start your business, the Secretary of State’s office also makes it super easy to register your business online. All you need is an internet connection and $52. I created my business one night in my pajamas!
If you want to get closer at Dawn's hard work and business, follow her on Twitter and Linkedin!