There is no single correct way to grow a brand, but as long as you are authentic in your pursuit of an audience and customers, you can't go wrong. That was the lesson from online community and monthly cosmetics subscription service ipsy's first ever Creator Day, hosted in New York City on Friday in conjunction with its Generation Beauty conference.
Pioneering beauty influencer Michelle Phan, Brit + Co CEO and founder Brit Morin, SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan and Harvard Business School professor Pauline Brown discussed how to grow a successful business during a panel moderated by ipsy President Jennifer Goldfarb.
Phan provided some valuable takeaways for entrepreneurs in any industry about how build a brand that is fulfilling both personally and professionally.
1. You are your own best PR.
Phan said that when she first started her YouTube channel, she was conscious of the fact that the internet never forgets. "Whatever you're projecting online, that's your public persona, and in a way, you have to act like your own PR," she said.
She explained that she chose Michelle Phan as her first YouTube username because she wanted to put forward the best and most honest representation of herself. "You do want to present yourself in a way where you could potentially be a brand," she said. "You never know what could happen."
But even with that in mind, Phan cautioned that if you are branded a certain way now, it won't necessarily stick with you for the long haul because the landscape is always changing.
"People call us gurus, but most people don't realize that we didn't choose that name, it was already pre-selected for us on YouTube. You were a director, a singer, a guru or a comedian," she explained. "Don't ever feel like these labels are something that will be attached to you forever, because the names will change all the time. It started off as guru, it is influencers now, but in the next five years it's going to be something else."
2. Be open to failure.
Phan characterized failure as a compass that can show you where you need to go if something doesn't turn out the way you hoped. The specter of failure is scary, especially when you're trying something for the first time and everyone around you seems to have it all together. But it’s important to remember that even the most experienced people aren't immune to obstacles.
"Our parents say you can do anything, so you go into the real world and you're like 'alright, I can do anything,' and then it's like, 'nope, didn't work,'" she said. "And this starts whittling away at your confidence. And I think this is truly why people are so afraid to take that first step, because their confidence is gone and what they have left, they want to hold on to it. But maybe sometimes we need to fail because it molds us into the people we need to be today."
Phan advised that you aren’t responsible for how people judge or interpret the work you put out into the world. If something falls flat, that's OK -- have a diverse strategy for visibility and use the platforms that best work for your content. If one doesn’t work for you, find the one that does, and your audience will meet you there.
3. Give yourself a break.
The beauty expert's closing advice to the group of young creators was to remember that you're a human being. Seems simple enough, but it's easy to forget when you're thinking about growing your business all the time and there is no room for error.
Phan said that recently, after 10 years of filming, brainstorming and editing videos every day, she decided to take a brief hiatus from that aspect of the business. "When you feel like you need to take a break, do it," she said. "The most important thing is you should listen always to your body and yourself."
She continued, "I know most people are scared [of taking a break], because they wonder 'what if I'm not relevant anymore?' But you can never be relevant in this world. Do you guys think about Thomas Edison every time you turn on the lights? Do you think about Steve Jobs every time you turn on your iPhone? No, you think about yourself."