In this episode, we have Kendra Swalls who is an elementary teacher turned photographer slash entrepreneur. She advocates for women not to aim for perfection as it doesn’t necessarily mean success. Her childhood dream of becoming a teacher was a success. She worked as a full-time 2nd Grade teacher and spent about 5 to 6 years in this field. She took her Master’s degrees but felt like something is still missing. It was a perfect job but there’s something nagging her. So she started her photography business in Dallas, specializing in bringing out confidence in front of the camera. It was a “Jump first, learn later.” kind of business strategy, therefore, allowing her to see everything including the ups and downs of starting a business.
Check out more of these tips in this episode and champion email marketing like a pro!
Kendra’s website: https://www.girlmeansbusiness.com/
Katie Brinkley 0:02
Hi friends. I’m Katie Brinkley and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado based small business owners, entrepreneurs, realtors and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode.
Welcome back to Rocky Mountain marketing. My guest today is Kendras walls. Kendra is a former elementary school teacher turned photographer and entrepreneur who is helping women let go of the notion that perfection equals success. Her first business was a portrait photography business based in the Dallas area, Paisley Lane photography and that specialize in helping women feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera. She is now the founder of the girl means business business education site and podcast and is on a mission to help women not only launch their dream business, but to show them all the marketing and social media tips and tools she’s learned on her own journey. She wants women to know that balancing motherhood and your career is definitely possible and achievable. Kendra, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Kendra Swalls 1:06
Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here. Well, I like to start back at the beginning. Kendra, you and I have met on clubhouse and now I Instagram stock your wheels. But I like to have my guess kind of tell the audience a little bit about where they’re from and what got you to where you are. So can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up and what life was like growing up? Sure. Yeah. So I grew up in Waco, Texas, now famously known for fixer upper Chip and Joanna Gaines. All those things. I lived there way before they were making it a cool place to live. In fact, it’s funny to go back now and see it as like a tourist spot when it was just this nowhere place that nobody wanted. Nobody wanted to be. So I grew up there. And my whole life. I was like, I want to be a teacher. That’s just my goal. My road I was in the beyond from time I was little I was the kid who would like line up my stuffed animals after school and like Play School with them. And I had sticker charts. And my aunt worked at a she managed an apartment complex. And in time they would have like people who would leave behind old textbooks, she would bring them to me. So I had like the most random textbooks that would pretend to teach from and stuff. And so for college, I moved up to the Dallas area. And I got my degree in elementary education. I started teaching second grade and I taught for probably five or six years and then decided to go back and get my master’s degree. I just I had this sort of like nagging voice in me that was like there’s something else. There’s something else that I couldn’t figure out what that something else was. And so I kept saying, Okay, well, if it’s not the classroom, then maybe it’s curriculum, maybe it’s administration, maybe it’s counseling, it’s I kind of explored all these different options. And I got a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. And I landed like, essentially my dream job. When it came to education. I was working for this amazing small school district, I had an incredible team I was working with I was their math curriculum coordinator, I was writing the curriculum for them. I was teaching the teachers, I was working with students who struggled, I had just, I mean, it was perfect, but there was still that nagging feeling of like, there’s something else, there’s just something not, this is not the right place for me, even though I love it. And a few years before that I had started picking up a camera again, my husband bought me a DSLR camera for Christmas. And he was like, you know, just you like taking pictures like this is your hobby, like he had all these hobbies that he would do. So I started taking pictures and learning more about digital photography. And because I had learned on a film camera, I taken some film photography classes in college for fun, but I didn’t know anything about digital stuff. So I kind of dove headfirst into all of that. And I started taking pictures just for family for friends. You know, like friends of friends, people I worked with nothing really big deal. In fact, I really didn’t even like call it a business for probably a good two years after I started taking pictures. And then I was like, You know what this is this might be something and so I as I do with everything, I kind of dove headfirst into it not knowing what I was doing having zero clue how to have a business or how to start a business. I’m one of those people that’s like junk first think later. And so I went all in. By the time our first daughter came along, I was like, Okay, I want I’m tired of feeling like somebody else’s controlling my time. I want my own time back, I want to be able to be in charge of my own schedule. I want to be able to be with her and go do things with her and not have to worry about asking for time off all those things. So I decided photography was going to be my way out of teaching. So I built up my business I really fell in love with the business side of business. The creative side was really fun, but there was only so much I knew the creative part was gonna get me and so I learned all about you know, like the marketing and the analytics and utilizing SEO and all those kinds of things to get like how can I get more people to find me? How can I get more eyes on my content and it became like this big puzzle
piece that I got to put together all the pieces and figure out it was really fun for me. And once my second daughter came along, I built the business up to a point where I taught for one more year kind of out of guilt of leaving my job because I, I knew that was such a good job. And I loved who I worked with and what I did. And I felt guilty leaving. But finally I was like, I can’t like the papers came for me to sign for the next year’s contract. And I was like, I can’t, I physically could not make myself do it. And so I walked away. In fact, I told my principal I was leaving before I told my husband, I’d quit my job. So it was a little bit like I’m just gonna go home and be like, so remember that thing we talked about, I finally did it. So that was 2017. And I just fell in love with working for myself. And I started having all these people that I had kind of met online and in person there were other entrepreneurs started asking me all these questions like, you know, how did you do it? And what we what did you do to build your business up to this point, and give us all your tips. And so I started kind of mentoring one on one, and I would do blog posts, but writing didn’t feel super natural to me. So someone suggested starting a podcast, and I was like, Okay, I I like to talk a lot. So that feels very much up my alley. And so I started my podcast growing his business in 2019, along with a website that goes with it, that is I’m working on redoing right now. But it’s gonna be like just kind of a resource hub for getting a business started. Like all the things that you maybe don’t know, you need to know yet, we’ll all be in one place. And it’s been incredible. I still do photography, and I do this as well. And it’s it’s been a fun balance, and obviously getting to meet really incredible people and getting to talk to people that normally wouldn’t talk to like you, Katie, and it’s been just such a ride. I’m loving it. You know, it’s interesting, we both started our own business around the same time, I started mine in November of 2016. But you know, I didn’t ever think that it never even occurred to me up to having my own business. So I love that you just kind of followed your heart and followed your passions to starting your own. And I think that that is what a lot of entrepreneurs do is they realize that they want to have the flexibility or that they are passionate about something so much that there’s just no fit for them in the corporate world. So I think that I love your your journey. And I’m right there with you, too. Like I have two little girls. And it was that was one of the things when I started my business, I was like, Man, I just don’t really like to be at home more with them and be able to take them to the zoo and do all those special things. And when you are the owner or the or whether you’re a solopreneur or if you have a small team, you are allowed those luxuries. So I I love your journey and how you got to where you are because it resonates a lot with mine. But today, we are going to dive into your growth grow means business, podcast and education and how you help people. And one of the things that you do is email marketing. And a lot of people might say, Oh, well, email marketing, why do I need that. And it really is just like, it goes hand in hand with what I do with social media, because one without the other you they just help each other they help. That’s what really when you use both of them effectively. That’s how you can really see your network, grow your audience in your community and your business grows when you do have a successful strategy behind email marketing and social media. So why is email marketing unimportant tool? Well, it’s one of those things where you know, when someone asked you the question like, What would if you could go back and tell your like early entrepreneur self something, what would you do differently. And this is a thing that I think for me has been such a game changer. And so I would definitely say like, start it as soon as you can, because there’s so many reasons but one social media is fabulous. I think it’s definitely a piece of your marketing that you have to have in place for multiple reasons. However, social media is, is unpredictable, and we don’t own our social media. So we don’t own our followers. So when someone follows you on Instagram, or likes your page on Facebook, or you know, whatever, they are just sort of holding space in a space that you don’t own. So it’s kind of like if you had rented an apartment and they’re coming by and like saying hi and then all of a sudden the landlord’s like, sorry, you don’t live here anymore. And then when they come by, you’re no longer there. They have no other way to find you. There’s no forwarding address, there’s nothing and so if something happens to your social media accounts for the reason that they get shut down, if the platform goes berserk and closes out or people leave the platform you know we’re seeing nowadays like social media kind of Is This Love it hate it kind of thing where some people are like, I’m out I’m not doing this anymore. They don’t feel like it’s a they’re being bombarded with ads and it’s all filtered all these things. And so it’s just, it’s sort of shaky ground and it’s a great place to meet people. I could say it’s like the cocktail party where you meet the people
They are going to be your audience. But then you want to be able to have a deeper connection with them. And so email marketing allows you to be directly into their inbox, however often you want to be in there, you get to have conversations with them, it feels way more intimate. Because when you post a social media, people know, like you’re posting to your audience, you’re posting it like, it’s like you’re walking on the street and just shouting at people. Whereas email marketing, it feels very intimate and personal, because it’s like you’re going directly to them, you can even like personalize it with their names, I always ask people to like respond to my email. So it starts a two way conversation. So I just think there’s a lot of power in that. So like we’re social media is where you can meet people. Email marketing is where you really build the connections that are going to take you into becoming a client or working with them or buying them buying something from you. You know, and I think that that is such an important point for us to highlight his Instagram owns your followers, you could, I mean, heaven forbid, but you could forget your password, or you could get hacked. And guess what all of those followers are gone, that you’ve worked really, really hard for. So if you have not set up two factor authentication yet, make sure you do that now. But I’m just saying, Instagram owns those followers. And if you’ve based your entire business on social media, and you have a strong following, that’s great well done, but you need to have a plan B, and email is that perfect plan B in case something does happen, because you that way, you can still tell them, hey, this is our new instagram handle, or, Hey, we’ve started this new Facebook group or whatever, you still have that direct access with them. And you also brought up a good point too, like, let’s say, I post something on on Instagram today, and you decided to take the week off. So Joe, you’re not gonna see the fact that I posted something talking about this, this great sale, you know, whatever it is that I’m selling, if someone doesn’t happen to see your picture, or your caption or whatever in the feed, they’re not going to know. But if you’ve sent them an email, when they get back from that vacation a week later, they’re gonna see the email talking about that sale, whereas with social media, unless they go directly to your page, they might miss it. So I love I love that you brought that up. It’s such an important point. I love it. So someone says, okay, you’ve convinced me Kendra, I need to pay more attention to my email. How can I get started? Okay, so the first thing you need to understand, and I think this is, if anyone has been doing email Mark, you’re gonna be like, Well, duh. But for some people I know, for me, like it didn’t make sense in the beginning, because I would hear people say, like, build an email list, build an email list. And I’m like, Okay, does that mean that I need to like, save them in a spreadsheet, and then email them all in Gmail. So no, that’s that’s not how email marketing works for a couple of reasons. So the first thing you need to do is find an email marketing platform to use. So for example, I use one called Flow desk, there’s MailChimp, there’s ConvertKit Active Campaign, a, I mean, there’s so many, so you can just kind of Google and one of the reasons I like flow is because it’s very simple, it’s very easy to use, and depending on the industry that you’re in, I’m visual person, I like to have really pretty emails, and so it gives me a, you know, templates I can use that are really visually appealing. If you are, you know, like working in finance, you don’t need pretty something like MailChimp, and ConvertKit are gonna be more kind of up your alley, because they’re just more basic basics, but they’re just more tech space. And then a lot of them have all these different features, like you can create landing pages and all that kind of stuff too. But the basic use of your email marketing platform is going to be to collect and sort your emails. So you’re not keeping them in a spreadsheet, you’re not having to import them into Gmail. They are when someone comes to your website, or your social media and they grab your free downloads. You see people all the time, they’re like, go grab a free download for X wires D like an okay, do you have one for getting started with clubhouse? Well, when you download that you’re entering your email and it goes into that email marketing platform. And then you can sort of categorize them. So for example, with my photography, business, I shoot a lot of different things. So I do weddings, I do boudoir, I do high school seniors, I learned the hard way you don’t want to mix up your boudoir audience with your high school senior audience. That’s two very different types of sessions. And so you want to make sure that when you’re collecting those emails, you have a way to sort of tag them and say, okay, this person came into my email list because they downloaded the SR welcome guide or they downloaded you know, the what to wear to your senior session guide. And they’re going to go into the section the you know, the segment that’s all for seniors, or somebody downloads my like wedding planning guide, they’re going to go into my brides section, and I’m going to have very different emails that go out to those two people because My Brides, my seniors are definitely not necessarily the same stage of life hopefully. And so those platforms allow you to do a lot of things and it helps automate a lot of things. So they
You’re not having to go in and do a lot of this on your own, it’s doing it for you set it up one time, and it does it. And it’s the best I mean, when it knows that when somebody comes into your email list from this certain link, that they go into this group, and then you don’t have to do anything else other than send them content. So that would be step one would definitely be find an email provider, email marketing provider that works for you that has the features that you want, and that you can grow with because right now, you may only have 100 people or even 10 people on your email list. But the goal is to grow that list. So make sure you choose a platform that you can grow with as well. I love that. Yeah. And like you said that having those different segments for each of your audience. Now, someone might be saying, like, gosh, I gotta try and craft all these different emails for all these different people, like how often am I supposed to be sending emails to all these different people. So I would say it’s similar to social media to the point where like, you want to find a good balance for you. So you know, if you’re not somebody who wants to post a social media seven days a week, that feels too overwhelming to you, then don’t do it. I mean, that’s the joy of running your own business as you get to choose how you want to do things. So I personally prefer like once a week, I know some people do every day, which feels like a lot. I know some people who do you know, twice a week or every other week, some just do it once a month. So it kind of depends on your audience and like what you feel like that they are going to be comfortable with. It also depends on what your businesses, so if you’re somebody who, like I have a friend who owns a online boutique, and she puts out new items on her boutique every Thursday, so on Thursdays, she sends out an email every Thursday, that’s called retail therapy. And it’s like five or six of the top items she’s about to release. So she does that every week, because she’s putting out new items on her website every week. You know, I have some photographer, friends who will send out sort of a monthly email where they talk about like, here are, you know, some of the latest blog sessions I’ve done, I mean, a blog post that I posted, here are a couple of my highlight sessions for the month, here’s what’s coming up as far as like mini sessions for the spring or whatever. And so just kind of figure out what works for you start with maybe once a month or every other week, and then build up from there. The nice thing is just like social media as you can create your content and then schedule it to go out. So it’s not like you have to sit down every Thursday and write an email, find a, you know, a time that you feel really inspired. And write out three or four emails and schedule them to go out for the next three or four weeks, you know, and that way it’s done. You know, you can do an entire month of weekly emails in one sitting, and then it’s done for the month. So it doesn’t have to be this overwhelming. And your emails don’t have to be like novels, you know, I mean, I’ve gotten emails with like, one little quick tip like, Hey, here’s a tip that I thought of the other day that might help you in preparing for transitioning your wardrobe from fall to winter or winter to spring. And she gives like one little quick tip on how to like, take a sweater and make it look cute in the spring with a skirt or something. And so it doesn’t have to be this whole long thing, just like a social media post. And you can honestly repurpose your content from an email to a social media post, or vice versa, or a blog post that you did or whatever, don’t reinvent the wheel. Please don’t do that make it all work together. Because most likely, if someone reads your email, and then goes to your Instagram or your Facebook, even if it’s similar, like you took a piece of your email and turned it into a social media post, or you took your social media posts and made it an email, they’re probably not going to connect the two together. And they’re not going to if they do they’re not going to think anything of it. So don’t be afraid to repurpose that content so that you’re not just feeling like you’re on this hamster wheel of content creation. Yeah, I think that I’m so glad that you brought that up about repurposing what the content you’ve already created in your emails. I mean, you can send people to your Instagram page or to your Facebook page in your email just by including, you know, hey, what was one of the biggest tips that we learned this week on social media, I talk about it in my latest Instagram post and send a link over to it. I think that that’s a great way to repurpose content, send people to where you want them to go if you do want people to check out your social media pages or if you do want people to reach part of your blog, or whatever that you don’t need to recreate the wheel with your emails. And that’s a great way to not feel overwhelmed is by sitting down scheduling them out. Writing you know two three sentences I do get a lot of those like novel emails Kendra What do you think on those verses like a short one? I think that they each can have a purpose but what have you seen greater success with? Honestly, I like me personally, I don’t love the novel email because I don’t read the whole thing. Like I got one the other day that I couldn’t even tell you what she was trying to sell me to be honest
Because I didn’t read the whole thing. And yeah, it’s helpful if you’re going to write a long email, like use bullet points or are bold or underline that, like the key point. So if someone’s kind of skimming the email, they get the gist of it. But I don’t need to know your entire life story and your email, I don’t need to know all of the behind the scenes of why you created that course, or why you buy this new product. So like, just give me the highlights. So I kind of prefer the ones that are just a couple paragraphs long. Again, I love using like bullet points and numbered lists, those kinds of things that are quick and easy, because even though people are willing to spend a little more time on their, in their inbox content, they were all busy. And we don’t have time to sit down and read, like, if you were to print out that email, it’s three pages long, that’s just too much. So I think finding a balance between giving them just enough information to kind of get them excited and like want to click the link to read more. I’ve seen people do that with blog posts, they’ll put like the first paragraph of a blog post, or like the first you know, line or a couple lines that get you excited about it. And then I’ll say like, Hey, click here and go read the whole thing. So that if somebody has time, and they want to read the whole thing, they’ll click it. But otherwise, they get kind of the main points of it just in your email, and then that kind of gives them enough. So I personally prefer emails on the shorter side. But I also see like, if you love to write and your audience love, you know, maybe you’re an author, and you’re sending out sections of a book, you’re writing over like fine, then that’s great. But I think you need to know your audience. And no, like if what you’re comfortable with putting out there, you know, yourself, like don’t commit to writing a novel every other week, if you’re that’s not what’s gonna be sustainable for you. So I think that that’s a great point, too, is having that sort of relationship where you know, what your, who your audience is and who you’re talking to. And that’s something too I think that with email, you don’t just need to have it be a one way street, how do you recommend that people foster a solid two way communication with their audience through email? So I, there’s two things I do here. One is I really pay attention to my analytics. So kind of going back to the idea of what are your audience want? You know, aside from asking them, like, what email Do you prefer more, you can look and see, like when I send out a longer email versus a shorter one, and I go and look and see like, what was the open rate? What was the click rate? Those kinds of things will give me a lot of information. That also tells me like, was my subject find very good? Like, was it enticing to people? And so really looking at those analytics and figuring out like, Okay, what type of content is my audience interested in? But the second thing that I’ve really started utilizing that has seen great results is asking people to respond to my emails, I think we forget in email marketing, and even in social media sometimes that like, we need to tell people what we want from them. Because we get so many emails that are like one sided, we’re so used to emails coming in and being like, Okay, here’s what I have to share with you. And I’ll see you later, I’ll see you next week or whatever. But instead, in your email with let me know what you thought of this hit reply, or, you know, like, I’ve done this before, I’ve said, you know, if you have any questions about this week’s podcast episode, or if you have suggestions, like, I’m just a reply button away, I answer every email that gets sent to me, please hit reply, let’s have a conversation. And what’s interesting is I have several sort of automated, like, welcome emails. So when someone joins my email list, they automatically get sent, like a couple emails over the course of two weeks, and of welcoming them, telling them who we are, who I am, what I do, and like giving them some value. And those emails, a lot of times, we’ll ask them, like, you know, hey, hit reply, and let me know, X, Y, or Z. And so I’ll get people replying to emails, you know, that I created a year ago in the sequence, I’m like, oh, yeah, okay, let’s, let’s talk. And I’ve started conversations. And it’s sort of like, you have to train your audience to know that, hey, it’s okay to talk back to me. Like, this is not one way. And I say that in my welcome. Like, this is not a one way conversation, this is a two way conversation, I want you to to email me back. And I’ve had some, like, I send an email, and they’ll just then they know, like, Oh, I’m gonna hit reply, and I’m gonna say, oh, my gosh, this was so helpful. I’ve utilized it in this way or this way. So you have to kind of train them, but don’t be afraid to ask them to speak back to you. That is a great strategy. And I love it, because then you can really go deeper with that person. And you know, if someone does respond to you, you can go check them out on social media and see where they’re at with their business journey. And you can kind of see like, Hey, this is a this is kind of a hot lead, I should move try and get in their DMS, you know, pick up the phone with this person, or it can be like, Yeah, you know, this person, I think. I just like looking at her feet. It’s very soothing. And I’m excited that she wants to learn more about me and my business. I love that you try and have people know that they can that there is a person that’s on the other side of the email inbox. And until they’re if they hit reply, they’re going to talk directly to you and you can build an authentic relationship with them from the very first email. And like you said, it’s from a sequence that you wrote a year ago.
Katie Brinkley 25:00
But they’re coming, everyone’s coming in at different points. So I love that. And I think that is a really, really great strategy. So, you know, before we finish up here, is there anything that I didn’t ask you about during today’s discussion that you think would be important to share?
Kendra Swalls 25:14
So? Well, yes, but I want to touch too on the one more thing about the connect the replying to emails Institute, I think you kind of touched on it, but it’s the fact that you want your audience to know that there is a human being behind that email, you know, it’s not just, you know, a team of people that are putting out this email, you know, we all know those emails that we get where it’s like, okay, I know this person a probably didn’t really write this, their team did. And B, if I reply to this, she’s not really going to respond to me, it’s going to be someone on her team. And so letting people know, especially when you’re first starting out, or when you’re small solopreneur, like people want to feel connected. I mean, especially nowadays, we all want to feel connected to people. So like, make those connections, that’s what’s gonna set you apart. But the other thing I think that is kind of key to building your email list is having that really good lead magnet, which is that that piece that’s going to get them onto your email list, I see a lot of people make the mistake of just throwing up a little thing on their their website that says, join my newsletter, or join my email list. And the problem with that is that like, nobody really wants to join an email list. I mean, like, most people are, like, we want something in return for that, you know, you go to like, gap COMM And they’re going to give you 10% off your order, if you sign up for their email list. So you have to think along those lines of what does my audience want? What do they need? How can I provide them something of value that they’re really going to enjoy? And they’re going to think, Okay, this gave me value for free. Now what she can do for me if I pay for something, or, you know, she gave me this for free in this little download, I wonder what her emails are going to do for me what her social media is going to do for me. So figure out what it is that your audience needs, what’s their pain point? How can you help them get like a quick win with something, you know, and I’ve seen, like, obviously, like PDF downloads, I’ve seen people do like free video trainings. And quizzes are really big right now. In fact, I love using quizzes, like it’s just a fun way to kind of get people engaged. I’ve seen people do, obviously, like actual coupon codes for things if you sell physical products, so get creative. It doesn’t have to be like a download this free guide. It could be anything. It could be a whole, you know, the possibilities are limitless, but you’ve got to get people in somehow. So give them value, get them on your email list and then build those relationships. I love it. Yes, thank you, man. This has been such a great conversation. I don’t want it to end. But all good things must come to an end. So Kendra, like I said, this has been so great having you on where can we find out more about you and your business, your podcast? Where can we connect with you more online? Yeah, so I am on Facebook, Instagram, all at girl means business. That’s the podcast as well as girl means business. You can find it on iTunes, Spotify, Google, play all the places. And then yeah, I also have a free download for you. Speaking of lead magnet, so I actually have an email marketing starter kit. So if you go to girl means business comm slash inbox, sorry, slash email, it’s going to give you a free email starter kit. So it’s going to give you kind of a email marketing one a one sort of everything we talked about today kind of broken down step by step, it will give you a free Canva lead magnet templates. So if you decide to do like a little PDF free download will give you a template you can use. And then it also is going to provide you with a five part welcome sequence. So that’s that those first five emails that go out to your audience. So when they get on your email list, you’re not just abandoning them, you are welcoming them with a couple little emails over a couple weeks to kind of invite them and welcome them and get them to know you and as well as go ahead and start that conversation. So you can go download that and yeah, use it to start getting your email list started. I love it. Thank you again so much for coming on the show today. And I will have all those links in the description of today’s podcast episode. Kendra, this is great. Thanks again. Thank you so much.
Katie Brinkley 29:10
Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at www.nextstepsocialcommunications.com Connect with me on LinkedIn or check me out on Instagram. I’m at next dot step dot social. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.