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Riding The Apple Train
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Today Apple unveiled their biggest change to the iPad since its debut. The new iPad is purported to be sleeker, lighter, and much more eco-friendly. It’s made out of 100% recycled aluminum and can even charge your iPhone while in use.The downside? It’s the most expensive iPad to replace.

With all of the bells and whistles, and the ability to use iPhone features such as FaceTime, the new iPad is definitely a technological gem. But with that also comes a hefty price tag that most Apple customers will probably still pay. Why? Brand loyalty. EXTREME brand loyalty. Apple has taken the simplicity of picking a cell phone and turned it into a sub-culture of loyal supporters. One does not simply use Apple products. You become an Apple user. It’s the biggest digital divide in modern history, with iPhone and Android users arguing over which devices have the best features.

The thing that Apple has done to separate itself from the Android market is to create a culture of exclusivity. Every single thing that you do on an iPhone has to be done within its suite of services. Every app that you download comes from the online Apple store, your music comes from iTunes, and if you have an issue with your device you go to the Apple store. With an Android you have Samsung, HTC, and countless others who share an operating system but don’t give you that feeling of exclusivity. There is no internal culture associated with owning an HTC, and device users don’t necessarily use any other HTC products.

The closest comparison to the Apple subculture is the growth of Google products. Google has put more effort into marketing its Google Pixel phone, and just recently introduced companion products like the Pixel tablet to create that same type of brand loyalty that Apple has with its customers. With Google already dominating applications such as Gmail and Google Drive, there just may be a chance for the takeover by ‘Googlers’.

Does your business suffer from a lack of brand loyalty? What are some ways that you can create a loyal subculture for your audience?

How Kylie Jenner Just Angered The Masses
Kylie Cosmetics. Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

Kylie Cosmetics. Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

Another Kardashian-Jenner member has angered the masses yet again. And not with booty shots and sex tapes. This time it's the emergence of lip kits and eyeshadows. And it's taking over the way we all look at the massive amount of student loan debt that we've incurred.

 

The ‘American Dream’ is not just a pithy saying to generalize the hopes and dreams of entrepreneurs. Many of us are taught that the path to financial greatness and a spot on the Forbes list is rigid and cookie cutter. We're also taught that it almost always requires a college degree. But in the digital age, the power of creativity coupled with social media allows us to create our own lane from anywhere we please. Just ask Kylie Jenner. The 20 year old saw a crack in the door opened by her well off family and busted the entire thing down. All by appealing to the vanity and inquisitive nature of women who want to look like today's social media and television rock stars.

 

As a member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Kylie is the youngest of the bunch. Much like her older sisters, Kylie always had an affinity for beauty and glamour. But instead of doing like most young, rich, and some might even say “entitled” kids and simply relaxing and enjoying the fruits of her family's labor, Jenner decided that she wanted to take charge and create something of her own. So she went with what she knew best - makeup. Having used makeup to increase her confidence level, Jenner knew that she could leverage the popularity of her well known family to drive traffic to her business. The problem is that she is being branded as “self-made”, according to her recent Forbes magazine cover.

 

Kylie Cosmetics launched two years ago with a $29 “lip kit” that consisted of a matching set of lipstick and lip liner. Since it's launch, Kylie Cosmetics has sold more than $630 million worth of makeup, including an estimated $330 million in 2017. The company now has additional products like eye-shadow and concealer. Forbes recently valued her company at nearly $800 million.An even more shocking fact about Kylie Cosmetics - 20 year old Jenner owns 100% of it. This is not necessarily the norm among reality stars with their own product lines. But when you come from reality star royalty, you do things a little differently. Jenner didn’t need a team of investors to own 65% of her company while she sat by praying for a large percentage of the fortune. Mom Kris made sure that her baby girl was the sole owner, and could cash in her own dividends at the end of the day.

 

But this is where the Forbes article feature gets a little sticky for some. The title of “self made” being appropriated to Jenner has angered quite a few people. Now, by Forbes’ definition their annual list of women who are “self made” billionaires usually pertains to women who have earned their fortune, as opposed to women who married into money or inherited money. Although Kylie Jenner didn’t marry into money, nor inherit her fortune, she was born into money. And for this, the internet is a little ticked off at Forbes for giving her that title.

Although most millennials today born into a family where EVERYONE is cashing in on their 15 minutes of fame aren’t necessarily interested in doing actual “work”, Jenner decided to jump to the front of the line on the money train. Sure, they consider getting paid for their Instagram posts or showing up at Tao in Vegas to be “work”. But Jenner decided to actually go hands on with creating and running a company with tons of moving parts. Obviously her road to entrepreneurship was a little easier than most, but it’s what she did when she got to the table. But the problem with branding Kylie Jenner as “self-made” is that it is a slap in the face for everyone who has bootstrapped their way to success, researched their product offerings for years, and struggled just to get a meeting with the top executives in their industry. It also leads people to think that there aren’t any other brands who are out there killing it just as much as Kylie. Black-owned Cosmetics line Pat McGrath is set to surpass Jenner’s company after inking $60M deal with Eurazeo Brands, a NY-based investment company. And unlike Jenner, Pat McGrath has spent years in the industry working with celebrity clientele and major brands. The difference? Business owners like McGrath don’t have the power of a millennial driven social media disruption, cross-promotion on her siblings’ multi-million follower accounts, and connections with all of the top business gurus in Hollywood. People like Pat McGrath take years just to get a meeting to seek out a permanent seat at the table.

 

Big sister Kim Kardashian quickly came to Jenner’s defense, insisting that she and the rest of her siblings are all self-made. She insists that the only thing that her parents have ever given them is “advice”. While that may be true (or not), that “advice” (and string of unbelievably stellar business connections) is akin to the 4 years of college and 10+ years of work that many of us put into building a business. For this, Jenner’s success is relative, and should be measured on a different scale than others. I applaud the women in this family for taking charge of their own finances, but Kim’s snippy comeback defending her little sister is evidence that their address on 'What Most People Actually Deal With Rd'. is nonexistent. Sort of ironic considering that the entire Kardashian-Jenner clan has built their empire with “Regular People” consistently purchasing from them. Wonder if those customers still feel connected and valued by the brand they are patronizing.

 

At 20 years old, Kylie Jenner is doing what has taken many college grads decades to achieve. This is a gift and a curse to the American public. The gift is that it shows that not all rich kids are just sitting around waiting for their trust funds to triple. The curse is that more millennials look at people like Kylie and think that the formula can be easily duplicated. Those of us who are entrepreneurs that started out without a safety net or a trust fund know how long it takes to get your products out there to the masses. We know how long it takes to prove that we even deserve a seat at the table to prove our worth. We know how difficult it is to have to balance student loans with investing in new software and managing payroll. But it’s hard to convey that message to a millennial who is only looking at the finished product. They don’t see all of the moving parts that are required to create a business.

 

Sometimes growth comes overnight. But for most, it takes years of trial and error before we can consider it smooth sailing. The beauty in taking the long way around the block is that we get to learn so much more along the way. And what’s in our heads and hearts can never be taken away from us. Not even by a Jenner.

 

What do you think of Kylie Jenner’s rise to entrepreneurial fame? Do you think she deserves the accolades she’s received across the web?

2014 in Review. Setting the standard for greatness!

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I've never been one to embrace change. But over the past couple of years I have learned to love the changes that have emerged in my life. Looking back on the past year has given me a chance to reflect on all of the positive changes that have happened as I continued to  build my company. Billingslea Media has enjoyed tremendous growth; and the changes in the marketing and technology field are opening up new doors for endless possibilities.

A huge part of this business involves going out and building relationships. I strive to maintain my visibility in the community in order to promote my clients, learn new processes, and create opportunities to link my clients with individuals that will help their businesses grow. I've met some amazing people along the way; and even created opportunities for others outside of my industry. I enjoy seeing the look on people's faces when they realize that their dream is closer than they expected. It's the motivating force behind my company, and it drives me to dream bigger.

Here are a couple of highlights from 2014:

Substantial Magazine

In October of 2014 I was featured in Substantial Magazine. The article highlighted my journey as a businesswoman, and shed light on some of the motivating factors that led me to start Billingslea Media. Aside from being able to express my goals and achievements in the magazine article, we also held an engaging and fun filled photo shoot that captured all of the facets of my personality.

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A month later I found myself engrossed in the mission and potential in the magazine, and published my first article as a Substantial Magazine staff writer. Joining the team has been a perfect marriage of passion, humility, innovation, creativity, and fun. In September we produced our very first awards show in which we honored the contributions of significant leaders in our community. The event garnered the support of hundreds of people across Eastern NC; including university staff members, government officials, and our very own Mayor Allen Thomas. In the coming year, Substantial Magazine will be unveiling a host of new projects and amazing content for our readers. I look forward to applying my experience as a Public Relations professional to the growth of the entire Substantial brand.

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•LinkedIn•

Just as Snapchat is the quintessential marketing tool for the teenage beauty queen, LinkedIn is a necessary tool for the modern day professional who is looking to establish themselves and further their career. Beginning in mid 2014, I decided to increase my activity on the social networking site. I utilized the Premium features of the platform that would allow me to expand my reach.

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Once establishing new connections, I made sure to extend the relationships beyond the home page. I engaged in conversations with my contacts to exchange ideas, establish my expertise, and even make other introductions. My complete LinkedIn profile and publishing page has resulted in connecting like-minded individuals, fine tuning my personal and professional brand, and landing a seat on the board of a local charter school.

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•Tweet Chats•

For years I frowned upon engaging in the "senseless" activity of Tweet Chats. To me, it was a waste of time to sit and look at what other people had to say in response to a professional who was leading the conversation. I didn't have time to filter through their comments, nor did I see the benefit in talking to strangers online.

Little did I know that talking to strangers would be beneficial to furthering my career. Of course it felt a little odd at first, but once I warmed up to the idea of exchanging ideas with others who were seeking more information within my industry, the process became an enjoyable and profitable activity.

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One of my favorite Tweet Chat series this year was the Black Enterprise Corner Office series. The series featured a wide variety of special guests who engaged with the participants and shared information about their areas of expertise. Guests ranged from Actor & Community Activist Lamann Rucker to Entrepreneur and former Apprentice superstar Randall Pinkett. Over the life of the series, Black Enterprise introduced a wide variety of experts who provided an amazing array of pertinent business and community leadership information, and even aided in the introduction of various professionals all over the country. My personal experience with the Black Enterprise Corner Office series has introduced me to several thought leaders who have challenged and encouraged me to grow my business, as well as offer resources to maximize my potential.

•Small Business Saturday

The annual American Express Small Business Saturday provided an opportunity for me to end my year with a bang! Each year, the movement grows larger and larger, and provides free resources for small business owners across the country. Their site offers articles and quick tips to allow merchants to maximize their reach and increase sales. The company also offers FREE marketing materials that are shipped to you free of charge within days. This year's goods were shipped via American Express partner FedEx, and included branded canvas shopping bags, pens, balloons, welcome mats, banners, and extra signage. Business Owners were encouraged to share their ideas and show how they used the promotional materials in their marketing efforts.

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Because Billingslea Media is not a brick and mortar business, being creative in my marketing activities is essential. As I watched other companies and other clients engage in Small Business Saturday activities, I did not want to let the day go by without participating myself. My virtual Small Business Saturday Shopping Spree not only managed to pair several small businesses with one another and allow businesses to increase their weekend sales, but it also caught the attention of CAN Capital. I entered the CAN Capital Small Business Saturday competition, and was one of two businesses who were awarded as the winners amongst hundreds of contestants. As a winner in the competition, I was awarded a $100 Amazon gift card and a one hour consulting session with Entrepreneur, Author, and Consultant Gene Marks.

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The achievements of 2014 set the standard for my company's vision for the coming year. As my network increases in size, I find inspiration not only to continue to service my clients, but also to expand my services and scope of influence. I look forward to the smiles on my client's faces when I show them just how wonderful their dreams can be when they trust their vision to Billingslea Media.