Amy Jo Martin is an Investor, Founder/CEO of the Renegade Accelerator, NYT best-selling author and host of Why Not Now? podcast, which helps businesses track and monetize their digital and social media presences. We asked her about what entrepreneurs need to be successful American small business owners today.
What is the top challenge facing small business owners today?
Innovating while staying hyper-focused at the same time. More than ever, given our circumstances, entrepreneurs are required to innovate their business model and their customer journey, which takes experimentation and trial. Yet there’s added pressure on resources, which requires hyper-focus and conservation. There’s no time or money for “shiny object syndrome,” yet experimentation is crucial, so there’s very little room for error in this juggling act.
What’s your advice to small businesses looking for their “brand purpose?”
Your brand purpose isn’t something you seek and find. Ideally it is baked into the DNA of the business from the beginning. For small businesses, the brand purpose often stems from the business owner’s higher objective, mission, and vision. When the founder steps out in front of the logo and shares why they have built the brand and who they are, purpose will naturally shine through. Brand purpose is not something we can manufacture or reverse engineer.
What would you say to an aspiring entrepreneur hesitant to take the risk of starting their own business?
I’d say, “Why not now? If not now, then when? If not you, then who?”
It’s okay to keep your current job and flirt with your entrepreneurial idea to begin with. You can date your business idea, get the feedback loop going, and then decide if you really want to double down and commit. You don’t necessarily have to quit your current job in order to start this process. That’s actually a myth and most people parallel the two for a while until stability surfaces with the entrepreneurial path.
What’s one aspect of doing business in America that is different from anywhere else in the world?
America values possibility, opportunity, and freedom, and these three things are cornerstones of entrepreneurship. America has led the way in inventing and advancing some of the fundamentals that enable entrepreneurs to thrive today, like social media and advanced technology. For example, social media has democratized entrepreneurship even more by leveling out the playing field.
What qualities do successful entrepreneurs have in common?
Successful entrepreneurs, who are making a healthy impact and income, are able to identify their intersection of where their purpose, passion, and skill collide. They build a business inside that intersection and then they’re able to humanize their brand by communicating why they’ve done this.
They become pros at getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Successful entrepreneurs are always listening to their customers and team members (employees). That constant flow of data becomes critical to their success and their continuous growth.
In your opinion, why are small businesses the backbone of the American economy?
Small Businesses are the epitome of the American dream and the American experiment. Freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success achieved through smart, hard work. Entrepreneurship is fairly accessible in America and even romanticized.
What role have you seen social media play in the success of small businesses today?
Social media is the equal opportunity space. It’s the most efficient, effective way to communicate and connect with customers. Real, emotional connections convert and compound over time. Humans connect with humans, not logos. Social media allows the faces behind the logos to come forward. When small businesses humanize their brands online, they stand out and avoid sinking into the sea of sameness. Additionally, social media is fairly easy to localize, which allows small businesses to be hyper-focused and deliver relevant value to their specific audience.
Beyond money, what do you see as a measure of a successful business?
When a successful business is purpose-driven, impact and income go hand-in-hand. The impact could be on the environment, community, customers, employees, and beyond. Citizens are craving the opportunity to vote with their dollars and one of the best ways to do this is by supporting small businesses.