Laura Caroon, Co-founder and President of Ladyboss Midwest, is our guest on our season premiere. We discuss marketing a startup versus an established business as well as Ladyboss’ origins. Laura also delves into how important building relationships is while marketing a brand-new business.
VO: Let's get geared up for startup success. Join Josh as he interviews knowledgeable guests from all corners of the entrepreneurial world and get the answers to the questions you've been asking, get ready to learn something new on this episode of, From Idea to Done.
Josh: Hey, everyone on this episode, I'd like to welcome our new guests. Laura. Laura is the president and co-founder of Ladyboss Midwest. Laura, welcome.
Laura Caroon: Thanks so much for having me.
Josh: Awesome. Tell us, uh, tell us the audience a little bit about what Ladyboss is.
Laura Caroon: Yeah. So Ladyboss Midwest is an organization with a goal to connect and empower women all across the Midwest. So we do this through different online spaces. We have Facebook groups, um, we have virtual events and we offer different educational and professional development type events for women and specifically for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Josh: Awesome. How long have you been, uh, or how long ago did you co-found Ladyboss Midwest.
Laura Caroon: So my co-founder Danielle Mo and I, um, found a Ladyboss back in 2018. Um, our goal was really to create a conference just for women talking about things that women are interested about and issues that maybe other companies or organizations weren't really tackling. So, um, we started the lady boss summit and because we're both marketers, we knew that we needed to build an audience before we launched something like that. So we put together a Facebook group and invited our friends and then our friends started inviting their friends. And by the time that we opened ticket sales for our events, we had 800 local women in this Facebook group with only ticket 50 tickets sales or 50 tickets to sell. So, um, it was really exciting for us and it was cool to see that women were hungry for something like this. They were looking for ways to connect.
Laura Caroon: They were looking for ways to, um, be empowered. And, um, we thought, you know, what can we do with these women that we have? What can we do with this community? So we started creating different networking type opportunities, um, kind of, we didn't call them networking opportunities, more like connections, opportunities to learn new things, try new things like we did, um, like a cheese painting class and learning to paint and, um, book club and happy hour events, things like that for women to be able to come together, meet other women and learn something from each other.
Josh: That's awesome. It really sounds like organic growth has been kind of the key to, um, to do your growth. Is that?
Laura Caroon: Absolutely!
Josh: Awesome Um, how do you compare, you know, what you've gone through in the kind of startup world from a marketing standpoint versus, you know, some of your work with, you know, maybe a more established brand in your, in your work past?
Laura Caroon: Right. So I, before I started with Ladyboss, I was working at Concordia College in their marketing and communications office. So what I was tasked with was marketing the school marketing to 16, 17 year old kids who are looking for colleges, but I was also marketing to our alumni. So people who were 22 to 92, um, I was also marketing to our donors, our volunteers, to our staff and faculty. So with a brand like Concordia is a very established brand. Um, there were so many different audiences that we needed to connect with simultaneously, um, and have messaging that was really cohesive, but felt like it spoke to all those different people. So that was definitely an interesting and different challenge. Um, I think with any brand, you are always working to tell your story in the way you want it to be told, um, with a brand like Concordia that had been around for a long time.
Laura Caroon: People think they know something about you. Um, they think they know what the brand is all about and your job is to help kind of redefine the brand and who you are as an organization, um, today. And then for a brand like lady boss, Midwest who were brand new. So we needed to tell people who we are and show them who we are, who we are. Um, when we started, we didn't have any money for ads or things like that. And we just built completely organically. Um, so that was definitely a different challenge and it was a lot more about relationship building, um, and being a personable presence online or whatever spaces that we were in. People came to Ladyboss to feel like they had connections with real women. Um, and that's what we are. And that's what we offered was a place for people to actually really connect. So, you know, the, both of them have similar, similar goals with engaging your audience. It's just figuring out who is that? Who is your target audience? What are they looking for? What do they need? And figuring out different ways that you can give that to them authentically.
Josh: Yeah, absolutely. The thing we found too, is that those more established brands have their voice have their persona. They know who they're talking to. And a lot of times startups are saying my audience is everybody. And if I just capture, you know, one 10th of, 1% of everybody owns a cell phone, we're going to be rich, but you don't, don't really nail the wa what's in it for me. Why should I care? How, how difficult was that for Ladyboss or did that come pretty organic for you and your co-founder?
Laura Caroon: Um, for us, you know, for Danielle and I were really on the same page, right from the beginning. Uh, so the messaging was pretty, I don't know, it was pretty intuitive. Um, we didn't have anybody else that we had to ask permission from to say like, is this message, okay, is this on brand? So we really just got to figure out what that was, um, together. So that was very exciting. Um, and it felt really freeing to be able to make something happen from the ground up really.
Josh: Did, did you feel like you ever questioned your, your brand statement or the direction you're headed in as you started to roll out that message?
Laura Caroon: Oh, absolutely because we're in the women's empowerment space. Um, what we need to be really, um, conscious of what's happening in the world, what's happening for women in different spaces. Um, and that's a changing conversation. Um, you know, we, we see different, there's all kinds of different brands who are, you know, the girl boss type brands or who are working in women's empowerment and everybody has their own, um, their own angle, their own messaging. Um, and we're trying to be that space for women in the Midwest. We're never going to be like a women's empowerment organization that is on one of the coasts. Um, we are really working to, um, reach women here in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, all across the Midwest, um, and help women with where they're, where they're at right now and not trying to force them to be, um, like anyone from anywhere else.
Josh: Absolutely. How do you approach kind of the, the social angle, um, when you're promoting and marketing lady boss, I mean, there's a thousand different social networks and different things out there, and there's always coming out with something brand new. How do you transactionally kind of stand in front of the, the marketing that you need to be doing? Are you, if I'm a few channels that really work well, or is it something that, um, you know, you're testing out kind of new markets?
Laura Caroon: Yeah. I mean, I feel like that is such a moving target, trying to understand where people are at on social. Um, we, we we're, we're lucky enough to have somebody full time who works on social media for us, um, who can stay kind of on top of those trends. Um, but also deciding whether or not those things work for our specific audience. Um, you know, we're not doing TikTok dances, as fun as they are that maybe doesn't really speak to, um, what we're trying to accomplish. Um, but there's a lot of different ways that we can connect and really figuring out where are the people that we want to talk to. Are they on Facebook? Maybe some of them are on Facebook. How do they want to be talked to there? Are they on Instagram? How do we really engage them there? And what other spaces are they on?
Laura Caroon: Are they at TikTok? Does it make sense for us to spend, um, the time that it takes to create that kind of content? Um, and that's a question that we're just always asking ourselves, but we have seen a ton of engagement and growth for us with, um, Instagram. We are majorly focused on a millennial women, and that is where millennial women are at right now. Um, will we add a, uh, TikTok strategy. I mean, that's, that's the direction that people are headed. People who are not even on Instagram anymore, they're moving towards TikTok. Um, and so we just need to keep, keep growing and keep, um, you know, figuring out where it makes more sense to put our energy, um, and for the goals that we need to accomplish.
Josh: Yeah. It's been a really interesting shift watching, you know, uh, Facebook coming out and kind of the rise and fall across different demographics and then audio only chat rooms and just all these different things. And, um, you know, really what I'm hearing from you is make sure you know, who you're talking to, what your voice is, and then go to where your audience is at. Okay,
Laura Caroon: Absolutely. Right. I mean, you don't want to be spending a ton of time creating content that maybe is fun, but isn't actually, um, checking any of the boxes that you need to check, or maybe isn't, um, doesn't feel authentic to your messaging. Um, you see brands that do things that, you know, you can kind of see them try to get on, get on board with things that maybe don't feel like a very natural fit and it feels really awkward. Um, so we don't really want to be, we don't want to be doing that. And you know, we're not like we're not trying to get high school students with Ladyboss Midwest, like that's not our target audience, so we don't need to be doing what the high school students are doing on TikTok or whatever else. So,
Josh: Yeah, no, that totally totally makes sense. Um, so my final question for you is, uh, if there's, you know, a, a startup founder and they're just kind of getting going, what marketing tips might you have for them to, to start kind of getting their wheels moving. Um, we kind of talked through a couple of the foundational pieces of, you know, target audience, the voice, and then, you know, go into where they're at, but, you know, what would you instruct them to, to be doing?
Laura Caroon: I mean, as someone who's been an in different spaces, I think honestly, like relationship building is so important and it's kind of overlooked, I think, in the marketing world, because it's not like spending money on an ad and it's not putting something on social media, but especially as you're starting, um, if you're a smaller business and especially if like you're the face of the business, you have to build those relationships, you have to get people excited about you and what you're doing, um, so that they can help be ambassadors for you and help you tell that story. Um, that's something that we found with lady boss in the very beginning as people came on board because they knew Danielle and I, and they were excited about what we were doing together. Um, and then, you know, as your brand builds, then it's less about you as an individual, but your, your followers, your ambassadors, your audience, building relationships with other people as well. Um, so that's, it's not a, like throw a hundred dollars at this and you're suddenly gonna be, um, an internet sensation or anything. It's a slow process. Um, and it takes a lot of work, but I think that relationship building piece really, um, grows dividends for you and your business and helps with longevity.
Josh: I, I agree. I've I found, um, with our stuff that if we're trying to launch something new, really getting in front of people, and there's almost a one-on-one conversations to make sure that that voice sticks or at works, um, cause it's so easy to try and scale something before, you know what it is and you throw it out there and you put some, you know, like you said, you boosted or put some money behind it and then you find out nothing happened, but you don't get any real feedback. So actually, you know, one-on-one conversations are great, you know?
Laura Caroon: Yeah. And if, you know, if it's a new concept or something, absolutely kind of shopping it around to people that know you and your brand, or maybe are already bought in, um, and just kind of see what they think and get that feedback. So before you launch it in a big way, you have some, um, outside feedback about whatever it is you're launching, so you can make it really great, um, for the beginning.
Josh: Awesome. Well, Laura, thank you for taking some time here today. Uh, what do you have going on in your world? What's going on with Ladyboss?
Laura Caroon: Yeah. So lady boss has got lots of things happening right now, but one thing that I'm super excited about, um, is our Ladyboss Retreat that is happening in March of 2022. So we are doing an in-person retreats at the Grand View lodge in this Nisswa, Minnesota, um, for three days. And it's an opportunity for women who are in, uh, leadership positions or wanting to be in leadership positions to really, um, connect with other women, unplug from kind of the day-to-day life and, and work, uh, stressors, um, get away to a place that's super scenic and, um, allow you to focus and learn a lot from different leaders and experts, um, across the industry about things like imposter complex, um, things like leadership, um, even workshops about HR or, um, we'll be also be talking about women's health and wellness. So really bringing that in, not just mean you're not just the person who sits in front of a screen or sits at work, but you're a whole person. So how do you take care of yourself as a whole person to, um, really do the best that you can do in whatever your work is?
Josh: That's awesome. It's so easy to forget about mental health or, you know, just, you know, the different dimensions of wellness. So that's, that's awesome. And in-person sounds great right about now after the last year of not, not doing that. So thank you so much for coming on today and we'll have links in the show notes below.
Laura Caroon: Thanks so much for having me. It's great to talk with you.
Josh: Likewise. Thank you.
VO: Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of, From Idea to Done. If you're enjoying the show, please feel free to rate, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts, we really appreciate it. And we'll catch you in the next episode.
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