Mirror Fogging

The first few years of starting a business have been a roller coaster for me. My biggest question that has yet to be totally answered is, “How do I know who to trust?” A huge obstacle I’ve faced personally is having people fall short on their commitments to me, or even worse, not follow through at all.

The truth is, certain people will fog your mirror and distract you from what’s important.

When someone fogs a mirror, it means they are trying to deceive you by distorting the truth, or baiting you to see reality as something it is not. This happens a lot in deal making and it’s not always intentional. Someone has fallen short of a promise, but doesn’t want the deal to fall through. Another may coin themselves as an asset to your business but never bring enough to the table. As a result, they keep you chasing after empty promises and waste your time.

Long story short: They don’t deliver on their initial promises, but dangle something else to distract you from their mistake.

Nothing has made my startup journey more difficult than navigating through the mirror-foggers. And I’ve come across multiple of them. I’ve had some relationships that dragged out for months that I wish I would’ve cut bait on sooner. I had an instinct that something didn’t seem right, but didn’t trust it.

Many of these people have been much older and much more successful than me. I wanted to trust what they were saying over my own instincts. I’m learning the hard way that was a mistake. But sometimes we have to do that to really understand something.

The key is to spot it early on. Know when to cut bait if someone is deceiving you.  Especially if you have a personal relationship with them or if they are charismatic people, try to see through the illusion and think, “is this person adding value? Is this deal ever going to be official? Will this partner follow through?” You might have to have some hard talks to get these answers.

Don’t underestimate your gut because you aren’t as experienced in the startup world. Good gut instincts make a great entrepreneur. Learn to trust them early on and you’ll set yourself up for less stressful relationships to manage and more progress on your business. When these people are out of your way and you’ve found yourself in good partnerships, a path to success becomes much more clear.


Business Breakup: When your partnership falls through

“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success”.- C.S Lewis

When you’re a startup dealing with a more powerful, larger, and established partner, things get tricky. You become so focused on making the partnership work, that you get lost along the way.

Like a crush, you begin to fixate on the potentials of the future. All your time and effort goes into the other person and you lose sight on the realities or needs of the present. When these feelings aren’t reciprocated, it sucks.

So what happens with a business realtionship doesn’t work out? This has happened to us, and it will happen to every entrepreneur at some point along their journey. Here’s what we learned when one of our partnerships didn’t play out as well as we hoped (along with some red flags that you can look for when finding the perfect partner for you).

  1. Don’t change your business model to make the partnership work. Our potential partner brought ideas to the table that we hadn’t previously considered. Which is great because we believed in this partner’s vision, but some of them went against our original objectives. We spent a ton of time working out a new business model that just wasn’t a good fit for us, but a great fit for them. This should’ve been a red flag that we were force-fitting the partnership to work.
  2. Don’t be so forward-looking that you neglect day-to-day business activities. The partnership kept us in the planning stage and never executing. We had action items in place that were dependent on this deal going through, and we invested a lot of time planning for those. We didn’t mind it, as we believed it would be worth it in the grand scheme of things. But we fell behind on some day-to-day operations. We focused too much on what’s ahead rather than what we had then and there. The constant balance between planning for the future and making the most of the present is tough to get right. If you find yourself planning and never really executing, you need to rethink your objectives.
  3. Set a deadline to cut bait if things aren’t working (and stick to it!). We had imposed a cut-off timeline saying, “If the partnership isn’t finalized by this date, we will move on”. But we ended up extending it, having hopes things would work out. Even though we had a feeling things weren’t working out, we were afraid of it falling through. We let the relationship drag on for too long, and it kept us distracted.

Although it’s never fun to have plans fall through, it’s better to find out a partner isn’t a great fit for you before committing to something long term. Plus, you can spend more time on the partnerships & relationships that are working for you.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Never underestimate your abilities to go somewhere without a partner. Sure, you’re a startup, but you’re more innovative than any corporate partner could be. Tap into that, harness that, and you won’t be the little guy forever.

6 ways to keep learning (even if you don’t have an internship)

Entrepreneur = Lifelong Learner.

While it’s tempting to spend all of your time outside of class binging House of Cards and letting the world go on around you, there’s so much opportunity to REALLY push yourself forward. After all, most of the important stuff is learned outside of class anyways.


We say it at SPUR all the time: doing is the best way to learn.

Internships are the epitome of learning by doing. They give you short-term real world experience, and long-term career connections. Unfortunately, there are only so many internships available in your field. And the search becomes harder if you are looking for those that pay (because, let’s face it, we have bills and it is hard to do things for free all the time).

So what if you didn’t get an internship this semester/summer, maybe you were late to game, maybe you didn’t get to try because you were preoccupied with your part time job, school, thinking about your next business idea? Trust me I’ve been there… The good news is, just because you don’t have internship doesn’t mean you shouldn’t and can’t keep learning!

Here are 6 other ways to learn by doing to get ahead in the game of life.

  1. Get a Mentor(s). In college, it’s ridiculously easy to find mentors. I had several teachers, older students, and even recent graduates that I turned to for help. The best thing is you can ask a mentor anything: questions on current projects, how to improve upon past ones, concerns about a new opportunity, even how to do taxes. Sometimes, it’s just nice to talk over coffee about life updates and new favorite books.
    via GIPHY

    Speaking of books…

  2. Read a Book. Listen to the experts and READ something. And yes, we recommend physical books so you can make notes and highlight. The act of marking up and taking notes will help you retain the content. Cause let’s be honest, you only want to read a book once.
    P.S. One of my favorite books suggested to me by an entrepreneurship professor is Change by Design by Tim Brown.There is your first suggestion!
  3. Shadow Someone. This is most common in the medical field, but you can do it for every industry. Ask your mentors, family, and close friends if they know anyone you could shadow.
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    Use your student card! (There are so many advantages of this, but let’s not get into that.) When you reach out to someone, tell them you are student and would like to see what a day in the life of “you name it” looks like. Then, go learn by observing others. Come prepared with questions, and take a notepad and pen to write down what you learn.

  5. Take an online course. Strangely enough, college limits your ability to take the courses you actually want. You’re restricted to taking what’s required by your major. Thankfully, there are tons of online options where you can cherry-pick the perfect subject. Finding courses that get don’t teach you theory, but instead give you experience is key.
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    Our course, FirstGear, jumps you right into building your startup. Other courses train you specifically on a certain skill, like photoshop or coding, and usually are more affordable than tuition.

  7. Teach Someone. You slave away hours a week to learn a subject in class, and for what? To complete a multiple choice test & purge your brain of everything you learned to cram the next subject in? What a waste! The best thing that you can do is to use that knowledge as soon as possible.Teach what you learned to someone else and you’ll truly master the subject. Explaining concepts in your own way challenges your brain at a whole new level. And we all love an opportunity to inspire someone.
  8. Journal. No matter where your learning journey leads you, you should document as much of it as you can. Journaling is the great way to learn from yourself. Taking a deep look inward can lead to some of the biggest revelations.
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    If you’re telling yourself you don’t need to journal because you’ll remember it anyways, you’re lying. The brain has a way of purging info that it doesn’t deem necessary at the time. But what if it’s necessary later and you just don’t realize it?

These 6 way of learning by doing are guaranteed to put you ahead of the curve. Even if you just take up ONE of them, you’re further ahead than you were before, and typically, one merges into another. With as much as you learn in school, a lot of that info is just not applicable in the real world. It’s up to you to take matters into your own hands to pave your path forward.

Interesting ways to continue learning this summer

As great as it sounds, you should try not to make these things a habit this summer:
  • Taking 3-hour naps at 4pm, resulting in falling asleep at 4am that night
    Scrolling aimlessly through TLs, forgetting that a world exists outside your bedroom
    Not reading SPURblogs

Yes, there are the typical ways of staying mentally active this summer: internships, summer class, being an apprentice for a shoe maker…

But if you aren’t doing those things, here are several interesting ways you can continue exercising your noggin!

    1. Summer jobs- Even the simplest dog sitting job will give you the satisfactions of playing with pups, practicing organization skills, or even sparking a new business idea!
    2. Summer camps- Whether you are a staff member or planning to attend, social events are a great way to network and gain experience.
    3. Start your business- If this seems like it’s impossible to do, I bet you you’re wrong. Our site has tons of useful blog posts up about the problems you may run into an a community that can answer any question you have.
    4. Traveling- Check out this link on why traveling is an important thing to do when starting a business
    5. Do your own research- Take it upon yourself to find what markets are growing in your city or scour the internet for crazy unknown products. This could spark interest or inspiration in a field and, you guessed it, lead to a new business idea!
    6. Try to get social media famous- Pick a platform and make a cool profile whether it’s about your fashion sense, the foodie within, or photo-shopping yourself into pics with celebrities (and yes that’s a thing). Since it’s summer you probably have more time to shoot and post to grow a following!


If none of these are things you plan to do, at least challenge yourself to try something completely new. Take kickboxing classes, learn a new language, take a stab at a form of art, even if you’re bad at it…

Whatever it is, keep your mind pumping. Your brain is like a car in that if it does nothing for a long period of time, the insides wear and there is much to do to get it running like normal the next time you need it

Be aware that you don’t need the traditional ways to feel like you gained something. The key is being proactive and doing what you say you will, and there is usually always something to take away from the experience.

Work on vacation without opening your laptop

You’re in the snow caps of Colorado, on a cruise the the Bahamas, wherever the summer has taken you, adventure awaits, but you don’t want to miss out on startup gains!

Have no fear. Traveling and seeing the world IS working on your startup. You’re giving yourself a much needed brain break, spending time with those you care about, and learning in an entirely different way than you do at home.

So much can be gained from relieving your mind of your common daily routine and opening it up to new experiences and adventure. So learn how to gain the most when you are being the least hands on with your business. If you don’t believe this can be done, here are the simple ways to be on vacation but still impacting your startup without ever opening your laptop.


  1. Enjoy yourself

    First and foremost, remember that this is your vacation. You set aside this time and paid money to do this. So relax. Your mood will improve and you’ll become more energized to work on your business upon returning home. All you have to do is think about the rest of this stuff, and you’ll be set!

    Down to read more, that is!

  2. Understand what there is to gain

    Go in with an open mind that witnessing new cultures, trying new foods, letting go of all the stress can have a serious impact on your live. Not only are you learning new ways of life and the history behind it, you are building your self awareness and where you fit into the world. The way other groups have solved a certain problem their whole life may be different than how you’ve done it. Ask yourself why? Is it a regional thing? A social thing? Does it work better than how you do it? Can you carry these practices back home and apply it to your idea?

    via GIPHY

  3. Take pictures

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    Going in with the task to take pictures should make you more observant and open to what is going on around you. Take your eyes of Twitter and look around. Observe the sights and sound and let it sink in that you are in a new place. Capture these moments for your own recollection as well as seeing what you can find on your trip that is photo-worthy

  4. Write down what you learn

    via GIPHY

    On the plane ride, car ride, or hitch-hike back home, reflect one some things you learned on the trip. I challenge you to write down 3 things you learned and ask others around you to participate. It can be about what you learned while going on a hike, or what you learned about someone else on the trip, or something you think you could apply to your start up.

GET OUT THERE: Using your free time to talk to customers

It’s summer, which means you are free from school, have time to hang out, and can get moving on your business. This time is particularly great for going out and talking with potential customers about your concept since more people are out and about. Engaging with potential customers is an involved and personal activity, so use this window where you have freedom to schedule time and put in that extra effort to reach out them.

The ability to introduce yourself and steal a few minutes of someone’s time is daunting but necessary. Approaching random person and asking them for an opinion on your concept can be awkward, but if they can provide you with actionable feedback, the exercise could be the most valuable thing you do. Here are some things to consider:

  • Realize that they are people, too. We interact with people every day, this time it’s just with someone you don’t have a previous connection to, and that’s okay.
  • There is always something to gain (more often than not). Meeting new people and talking to potential customers can provide insight, opinions from different background, and a new contact.
  • No harm, no fowl. Sometimes the conversation may get lead down a different path or you receive criticism. Still, these things are important to — but not let bring you down. if anything, you’ve improved your communication skills.

Now when going through this exercise, there are three types of people you need to be concerned about:

  1. Potential customers that do not yet know about your company (the vast majority of people)
  2. People that know about your company, but are not currently customers
  3. People that are already purchasing your product (if you are this far in the startup journey)

Consider these questions for each category. These will help you identify potential trends where you can make an immediate change to your concept:

  1. Why is this person unaware of my company? What are the best ways to reach them?
  2. Why are they not customers if I know I can help them and my product is better than what is currently available?
  3. Why do they continue to come back? What could make the product better?

Again, try not to get discouraged if the first couple people you approach ignore you, it will make the feedback you do get more valuable in the end, guaranteed.

A challenge to you: introduce yourself to five people you think could fit into your target customer profile and sell them on your concept and share your experience here. *

*This should be an exercise you are constantly practicing since things change so quickly. Having a pulse check on your customers will make the difference in being proactive with making decisions rather than reacting to an unexpected event.

How to beat summer laziness and work on your startup

Summer heat got you down? Putting textbooks away make you feel like productivity shouldn’t exist? Too tempted to chill with friends or take a road trip every other weekend?

What if I told you, you can work on your startup this summer, progress on your idea, and still get a good amount of adventure in? Well, believe it! Here are 5 tips to help you accomplish this!

What needs to be completed for you to feel satisfied with your progress? Sometimes life and work can get overwhelming.

First, make a list of all the responsibilities you’ve got going on this summer like work, summer school, vacations (pft, responsibility…). Then, make a list of attainable milestones for your business you want to reach by the end of summer along with what you wish you could do for fun (examples: survey 50 potential customers, read a book each month, exercise more).


Don’t forget that summer is a time where YOU get to choose what you will be doing and no one gets to tell you otherwise. Analyze your lists and find what is realistic for you to wholeheartedly complete. Maybe you take some things off your plate. Maybe you move some things from the wish list to the do-list. Keep in mind, just because you take something off your plate, doesn’t mean you can’t come back to it in a few months.


Most importantly, make sure to leave room for friends and family and designated days where you don’t think about work at all, for your sanity!


No matter what you’ve got going on, anything can be done with time management, dedication, and coffee.

Organizing your time at least a week in advance will help you identify and execute needs as well as give you the reins to decide when you work and when you play.

You’ll then find the nooks and crannies of time where you can squeeze chances to work on your startup, see the bigger picture, get more done, and maybe even have a good night’s rest.


Here are two resources to help you hustle while making room to live life the same time:
Todoist– If you’re a solo startup, try this guy. It’s simple and easy to use, displaying daily and weekly to-dos. Premium features (like reminder alarms) can be added for a cost. Also, get productivity tips emailed to you when you subscribe to their newsletters!

Resource: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.todoist

Trello- A SPUR favorite! Make categories, set deadlines, attach teammates to the tasks and more. This is great for if you have a team and want everyone to be in the loop.

Resource: Trello.com
Now it’s your job to stick to it! The more you do, the more likely you’ll immensely make progress on your goals. Just becare to not to over work yourself (see number 1).



Surround yourself with like-minded people. Are they other entrepreneurs? Hobbyist? Your family? Keep these people close to you and converse with them frequently. They can help to fuel your interests, get your creative juices flowing, and keep you on track.
Follow motivational pages. You know the ones. They have the sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes cheesy quotes pasted on an aesthetically pleasing background. Search for the pages that speak to you and get you pumped!
Follow your dream companies. Keep tabs on the companies that you look up to. Whether it be for their success, what they stand for, or how they present themselves online. Remind yourself that you could be like them one day if you try hard enough



We are always looking for the right person to join our business who we click with and bring complementary skills to the table. A network is a group or system of interconnected people or things. But these connections don’t just happen.

HISTORY FLASHBACK: Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) was introduced to Steve Jobs by a Bill Fernandez who went to highschool with Jobs. WHAT IF WOZNIAK NEVER SAID HELLO TO FERNANDEZ OR VISE VERSA? Wozanaik might not have ever met Jobs, and you wouldn’t be reading this on your smartphone or laptop.

Being out of school can make it harder to connect with others, so start that small talk with your neighbor at a coffee shop. Tell people what you are working on at any (appropriate) event. You never know where it could lead you! Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and no, they won’t steal your idea. This is a common fear between entrepreneurs among many others. Don’t let this hold you back from connecting with the right person to help you potentially making serious strides for your company.


Very rarely does success fall into someone’s lap. You might be asking, how do I meet these potentially wonderful partners and make connections? Sure, it may be hard if you don’t know any industry-specific people you can turn to. But once you have the resources, the rest is up to you. So here we are…giving you the resources! Click here to find another posts that talks about finding groups of like-minds, organizing opportunities to connect with them, and what to do once you’re talking to them. Now the rest is up to you!

NO EXCUSES: 5 ways to find opportunities, maximize resources, and MAKE things HAPPEN

Finally! School is out and you are ready to let all the knowledge you’ve just spent two semesters obtaining, pour out of your brain and lock itself in a drawer for 3 months. BUT WAIT.

Summer is actually the best time work on your startup because a) you no longer have to worry about maintaining grades and learning other people’s work and b) you get to make your own schedule and learn things for YOU.

We really believe in utilizing this time to progress on your startup and truly figure out the needs and hows of your business. So here are a few resources that are great for doing just that!

  1. Your Network Firstly, you already have resources at your fingertips! Professors, mentors, friends, family, that guy you met at a workshop, two heads are better than one! Never be a afraid to reach out to someone for a little advice or even just to run some of your ideas by. Another person’s perspective provides clarity and may even spark inspiration.
  2. MeetUp Don’t feel like you have a strong network? Never connect to professors during the year (you should!)? This page is AWESOME for meeting up with like-minds and helpful resources in your area. Join groups such as “ Rock Climbers”, “Robot Fighting”, “Dallas Foodies”, or anything related to where your startup lays and have opportunities to meet up and share ideas with these people. Find your group, there are thousands to choose from!

  3. SPUR Community Our community is full of students just like you, riddled with questions, eager to share advice, and seeking ways to improve themselves as entrepreneurs. Join our family to stay in the loop! We are working hard to release our mentorship program and online curriculum, but it’s not too early to hop on the community and start talking to other studentpreneuers.
  4. City Newspaper Here in Dallas, we have great publishers like Dallas Innovates and Dallas News. This may be a great source for you to continually be in the loop of what’s happening in your city and how you can join in on the action. If an article really speaks to you, reach out to the author and introduce yourself. Be genuine! You’ve now made someone’s day and you have a connection for a possible story to be written about you when your startup begins seeing success.
  5. Be the captain of your ship It’s up to you to make shit happen. Waiting around will never get you anywhere. You are in control of your journey and where your business will go. We know it’s hard. We know some people have better luck than others. So, email people, re-email people, make phone calls, make prototypes with paper and glue, print flyers and put them on every car. You are able to do more than you think. When there are limits, get creative. When you think that you can’t, prove yourself wrong.


Hope this get you pumped during your days off!

What it REALLY Takes to Put Your Customers First

To be honest, I’ve struggled figuring out where take SPURstartups content. How am I going to stand out to my audience, who’s bombarded with content every time they hop online?

Trendy blog content is laced with promises like, the “Do this ONE thing and you’ll be successful.” I was tired of reading post after post of empty promises and quick fixes. I thought, am I the only reader who feels like bloggers have completely forgotten about their reader? Since when was quantity better than quality?

That’s why when I heard about ConvertKit’s new Netflix-style blog structure, I had to reach out and thank them for bringing sustenance back into blogging.

ConvertKit publishes content in the form of magazine-style issues once a month. That content is launched Netflix-style in the middle of each month, every month. “Too many blogs are written for search engines, not humans. They lack focus on the reader, lack originality in the content, and generally leave something to be desired in the overall experience,” said the ConvertKit team.

I had an opportunity to pick the brain of Barrett Brooks, ConvertKit’s Director of Marketing. Not only did he give me some great advice for blogging, but also shared wisdom for being a successful business owner.

When I asked Barrett how to stand out in the digital marketplace and position yourself for long term success, his answer was simple: take time to understand what your customers want & tailor your content and product around that.

Easier said than done.

Here’s three takeaways from our conversation to remind you how to stay focused on what matters most in your business: your customers.


1. Stop thinking about yourself

You’ll naturally stand out to your customers if you are truly solving their needs, not your ideas about what they need. To do this, you have to stop putting yourself first.

“Part of what’s wrong with making digital products, what makes me sad about this industry, is that too many people just care about making money,” he said.

“As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know why you do what you do. How will starting a business change your life? How does your work connect to your own sense of purpose and meaning? What are your goals for your family and how will the business serve those goals? But your customers won’t buy from you because you want to put your kid through college. They won’t buy what you sell just because you love sports and decided to start a business around sports.”


2. Prioritize the outcome for the customer over the outcome for yourself convertkit-image-1

In college, one of my Entrepreneurship professors taught me that your bottom line mattered more than your customer’s experience. He believed that sacrificing customer service was worth it push came to shove for profitability. Something about that lecture was unsettling to me, and Barrett showed me how my professors theory couldn’t be more wrong.

He said, “If you’re so focused on you, you’re never going to make things that your customers benefit from. Think about how your customers want their lives to change and less about how you want your life to change. The outcome for the customer is more important than the outcome for you.”

“Yes, have goals for your life and your business. But don’t expect anyone to buy from you just because you want a better life. They’ll buy from you if you help them live a better life…The only thing that matters is what your customers want and need,” said Barrett


3. Know that success takes time, and that’s okay. 

Remember that success doesn’t happen overnight, or in a week, or a month. It can take years. Just remember that making progress on a small scale is the first step to making progress on a giant one.

Barrett reminded me that I can only move one step at a time. “You’ve got to get to 10 people before you get to one million. Before you can be the best in your state, you’ve got to be the best in your town,” he said.

Barrett’s mindset is what makes ConvertKit’s blog so fantastic. It and what inspires me to make our blog better than ever. They’ve taken a risk to change the way people interact with blog content. But that risk revolves around what they believed their customers wanted. Only time will tell if this strategy will work, but something inside me says it’s already a success.

Ready to start putting your customers first? Check out ConvertKit’s blog here and email marketing tools, here.



Turning your passions into profits: How being creative landed this designer her own TV show

See how Kayln did it in this candid Q&A.

Entrepreneurship is totally a family thing, at least it is more me. From my intrapreneur sister, Lila, to my designer-turned-TV host cousin, Kalyn. Kalyn Rothaus, the host of Office Spaces, knows what it takes to work hard and break through even the hardest of industries. I can remember back to the days when she was in college bringing home her designs, my Aunt Kit looking at them and asking my 14-year-old self what I thought about it all. (Aunt Kit is the person I credit with kicking off my career- but that’s a story for another day). Kalyn has come a loooong way since college. She has her own TV show, just tied the knot, and is kicking some serious butt. I picked her brain for the quick-and-dirty about what it took to get here and how to brand yourself. Get the deets below!


What inspires you to work so hard?!

I am a goal setter and always have been. When I have measurable goals it is easy to work hard to get there faster and enjoy the hard work with perspective on the outcome!


How do you stay motivated to break through in such a difficult industry and always believe in yourself?

I truly believe I have always worked hard, but I have also had some luck! I think the combination of being at the right place at the right time in conjunction with hard work creates this magical formula in my life for opportunity.


You think outside of the box with your designs- how do you apply your creativity and innovation to everything in your work life?

I apply my creativity to everything in my life. I try my best to be silly, and not take myself too seriously which helps my creativity flow more freely. I find that when I was afraid of what people thought, I couldn’t be as expressive in my work and in my life. I am constantly reminding myself to trust “me” the most. Although, I do have to make clients happy too, so there is a fine line.


What is the number one piece of advice to you have for someone who wants to make a name for themselves and be successful?

Say yes. When I was asked to be the on camera Host for Office Spaces, I said yes, even though I was terrified (to say the least). I began to soak up everything around me and learned from everyone I could- from the camera operator to the production assistants, constantly asking what I could do better. I also watched myself on the monitor after shoots to understand how I could improve. The bottom line is, I said yes, in spite of not knowing what yes meant. The truth is, I believe I am smart enough to figure anything out AND ask for help when I need it!


Do you think having a personal brand is important? What advice do you have for branding yourself?

Well, before I knew I would have a TV show, I thought about this question a lot. I had no idea how to start. Then, I was thrown into an on camera role, and the most important thing I can do for my “brand” is be me. I am constantly being told what to say on camera, but I always pause and think about how to say things in my own words and express what I believe.  If you are your own brand (especially in a creative industry where we sell ideas and dreams that are not tangible at first) be your unique self and believe in what you create.