Sasha Laghonh on The Art of Monetizing What You Love
Sasha Laghonh, Founder Sasha Talks
Can you begin by telling our audience a little about yourself, your business, and what led you to pursue your particular passion as a profession?
I was introduced to the realm of business, specifically the niche of economics and finance, during my academic years that I chose to specialize in it during my higher education career. Fast forward decades later, I've contributed my skills and expertise among different industries and different types of organizations on a global scale. Business made the most sense to me because it would serve as an anchor to nurturing my other interests in the market over time.
I'm curious to know, what was the defining moment that made you realize that this passion could actually become a business? How did you identify the unique value it could bring to others?
I already invested in two preexisting endeavors, one specifically focused on the business clientele and the other focused on artistic minds seeking collaboration in events management. The business endeavor was rolled into a global platform while the artistic one was sold to a third party. Fortunately, business and the arts are both my passion which trace back to my teenage years. They weren't developed into entities as a feel good initiative. They were born to deliver a need in the market.
Business is practical - when things stop making sense, it's important for people to question their "why" in their pursuit of anything in life. Passion is a supplemental benefit to the work I do because I enjoy what I do for a living. In my specific case, it's not the type of work that people do for vanity reasons or to receive a thank you. I need to be vested in it, it's the only way I can align with the right clients who are vested in their results.
The unique value I bring to others primarily is my life and professional experiences sprinkled with my DNA. This includes my personality, my style of communication and my ability to gently rip band-aids off when other people want to defer disasters in the making. I have the privilege of creating and contributing to great endeavors for the better; as well I am the same person who will pull the plug on bad ideas that are enabled by clients blinded by their pseudo fantasies. I believe I bring sensibility to the table. Also I can balance intellect alongside exploring ways to balance harmony and chaos to produce positive results.
As the messenger I'm familiar with all types of reactions and responses. The best compliments I receive from clients inviting me back to help them with their latest needs and challenges in need of a solution. Sometimes I serve as the solution itself, other times I am there to craft a solution with vested parties.
People can lie all they want to themselves pertaining the state of their professional and personal lives but it's not the market's fault. A bad economy, or even a bad personal/business financial phase only reveals what was either being ignored, or abused to create circumstances which yield outcomes demanding immediate course correction.
In some cases, it may involve job layoffs, or even dissolution of relationships that were poor investments in the first place. Bad times, sooner or later, reveal the truth of what was being managed well or poorly within the four walls -- this can be in the workplace, at home, or any environment involving people and resources. Business is no different than life.
The premise of Sasha Talks is to leverage my lessons learned in life through the business, education and entertainment channels available to connect with audiences. If the world is burning down, I am still the glass half full personality because I see opportunities to leverage in life.
Every entrepreneur faces obstacles, especially when turning a passion into a business. Can you share some of the initial challenges you encountered and how you overcame them?
Having a passion translate into tangible results takes time. This is why I often tell aspiring entrepreneurs that it's important you pursue your goals for the right reasons. It can't be a fleeting thought because you will invest a good amount of yourself (brain, heart, mind, body and resources) to bring your passion to fruition. Anyone who claims they can outsource the whole process is being naive to the fact they're giving up the most important ingredient, themselves, from learning how to develop their passion into a measurable outcome.
If you claim it's your passion then you should know the DNA of what you're creating from the inside out. It's your kitchen, know your ingredients, learn to cook and eat your own cooking before expecting others to try it. If you can't respect yourself and your work, don't expect others to give a hoot about it. Often people can talk a good game but 98% of people can't back up their pretentious claims. We live in a world of smokes and mirrors. Do your best to be human. I'll take a person with rough edges before opting for someone who's selling their mist of perfection to audiences.
My other advice is to "chill". Chill after you put in the work, not before. This doesn't mean put your life and work on autopilot. I've never heard of any valuable things put on autopilot. Time doesn't take care of anything, you still need to put in the work. What you do with the time will dictate what your return on investment is later. Put in the work but leave some room for flexibility as life will take you through twists and turns that can only develop you into a better producer of your craft over time.
Your way isn't always the best way. Leave room to learn from others and life, or you will turn into an outdated mediocre source who's not bring timely value to the market. Apply discretion. Also focus on yourself and less on what others think. Grow a spine and you'll be fine.
Monetizing a passion requires a solid business model. Can you walk us through how you developed yours, and the key factors that make it successful?
I was already dispensing professional services through word of mouth recommendations, live face to face engagements and then I gradually decided to market my professional presence online therefore I have a rolling list of achievements and lessons learned prior to the inception of online platforms. My business model doesn't rely on any sole source to align with the right clients. I've learned early on in my career to keep a rolling pipeline of opportunities and endeavors I'd like to pursue over a period of time. One never knows how they will connect with the right opportunity because I'm living proof for landing some of the most interesting deals in the most serendipitous manner.
People are too hard wired to function a certain way that they put unnecessary restrictions on themselves for how they will seek success. You don't seek success, it seeks you. Do things that are worthy to attract it. If you're going to be myopic about how you live life by setting rigid parameters around yourself, you're only blocking a lot of life opportunities that will bypass you. If what you're seeking or waiting on isn't happening, it's because you're resisting the process for some reason. Do your inner work and stop blaming life for the state of circumstances surrounding you. We all either serve as the problem or the solution in our paths.
Many people worry that monetizing their passion may take the joy out of it. How have you managed to balance the business aspects with staying true to what you love?
I believe I bring value to the world and the market. I have no personal hiccups about monetizing my skills, innate and developed, when dispensing services. I respect and value my work therefore the right people and organizations align with my presence. When you pay, you pay attention. It holds all parties accountable which is also a plus!
It's simple. I don't see why people who enjoy their work should be perceived any differently when valuing their contribution in the market. As a counter argument, should someone who hates their work contribute for free because they're being subjected to work (per their free-will), especially when they 'choose' to not like their work? Just food for thought. :)
Passion or no-passion, everyone has an obligation to fulfill. To each their own.
One possible reason why an individual may hesitate monetizing their passion is due to exercising transactions at face value. When people pay there is an expectation to receive at least a standard product or service. It's not two kids playing on the playground for sheer pleasure. There's accountability at play. If you love what you do yet you believe you need to justify charging for it (i.e. due to quality assurance, or being confident to actually share your passion), then start working on it.
There are people who have passions but they don't monetize it because they barely meet the bare standards for others to see their passion as investment worthy. Just because you're in love with an idea doesn't mean others will automatically love it too.
Even love has its limits, even more limits when money is involved.
It doesn't mean when clients pay you, they own you, or they can treat you according to their liking. If your passion doesn't serve a need in the market, whether it's niche or not, then aligning your vision with a prospective client requires attention.
It goes back to my earlier comment, business is practical. It provides many avenues to better society as a whole if the contributors are sensible in the process.
As your business grew, what strategies did you employ to scale it while maintaining the core values and essence of what made it special in the first place?
Over the years the terms of engagement have evolved once I learned through experience, and lateral counterparts in the industry, how to scale the verticals while conserving time and effort. I have remained true to myself in the process. Good things take time to build therefore I'm glad developing the platform gradually over time can speak for itself. The mission of the platform has always remained to bring an open heart and mind to learn. It's not a platform that preaches, instead it welcomes people to share their respective crafts and life stories to educate others. It provides many opportunities for us to exchange our stories, share a laugh as well reflect upon the deeper questions of life that binds us all together.
Your journey is truly inspiring. What key insights or pieces of advice would you offer to someone looking to turn their passion into profit?
Ask yourself why you're doing it. If it's solely for the money, ask yourself if it's to attract sales, or develop revenue over time. The strategies will differ. Whether it's a passion or not, the amount of investment and development needed doesn't change. It only means you'll possibly encounter less emotional resistance on days when you're wanting to translate effort into tangible results.
Be patient, continue learning and be consistent. When people work when they 'feel like it' on their passion projects, either these projects won't see the day of light, or they won't be available in a timely manner when the market is ready to transact with the person.
Don't take the market for granted but at the same time don't let random strangers dictate how you should be turning your passion into profit. The word passion itself has the history of exhibiting stories of sacrifice. Own it but don't become a doormat in the process to prove to people how passionate you are about your idea. You will only attract predators ready to prey upon your desperation.
Reflecting on your journey so far, what are you most proud of? What future developments or projects are you excited about in your business?
I am proud of remaining true to myself during my professional journey. This has entailed a lot of reflection, making tough decisions and executing them in the process. There are new things brewing in the coming season which will receive a green light soon before I can make an announcement.
The journey of growth is always in flow at Sasha Talks.