How I took my new business from 0 to 25 clients in 18 months

Jennifer Zick is CEO of Authentic Brand, a Minneapolis-based marketing consulting group. She will be presenting “Positioning: the key to authentic growth” as part of the “Getting Serious” series for solopreneurs, on Thurs, Dec. 13, at Fueled Collective Uptown.

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I’ve known for many years that I wanted to build a business of my own. But until recently, two things prevented me from taking the plunge. First, the risk. I have a family to feed (and if we’re honest, an ego at stake). I had helped grow other people’s businesses, but I had never been an entrepreneur / owner. What if I fail? Secondly, I wasn’t clear on what value I could provide. What – exactly – would I sell? And why would anyone want to buy what I was selling?

The sudden loss of my last full-time role gave me the motivation I needed to overcome those two hurdles. If I was ever going to start a business, this was the time to do so. And, if I was ever going to figure out what I would sell and how I would differentiate, I would need to give myself the time and space to experiment: to listen, play, test, refine, and prove my offering. I knew it was go time. But, I also knew that I wanted to go forward with focus and purpose – even while I was defining my niche.

I made a promise to myself. I would give myself six months to sell any services I could deliver as a solopreneur, so that I could build revenue and feed my family. In that time, I also committed to seek clarity on how my business could differentiate and bring something unique to the market.

In addition to giving myself a timeline for defining my focus, I needed a framework to help me articulate what my niche would be. I turned to a system that had helped me in a past role and company: EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System. Based on the book Traction by Gino Wickman, EOS offers a simple set of tools that helps entrepreneurs get what they want from their business. One EOS tool  – The Vision/Traction Organizer (V/TO) includes an element called “Three Uniques.

With Three Uniques, business leaders define the attributes of their brand which – when combined – create a truly unique competitive position. While any single Unique on its own may not create categorical differentiation, the Three Uniques together are the recipe for the “special sauce” that sets you apart from the competition. With this clarity, you can express your very best, highest value to the world, and attract the ideal clients that need exactly what your business can provide.

By the time Authentic Brand was six months old, I had accomplished my initial goal. I had onboarded a dozen clients, was growing a profitable business, and had established clarity in where my business would focus and differentiate for growth.

I hope you’ll join me on December 13th at Fueled Collective as I chat with Don Ball about how Authentic Brand continues to evolve based on this focus, and what we are learning along the way. I look forward to seeing you there!