Sasha Laghonh on What I Learned From My Solopreneur Journey
Sasha Laghonh, Founder Sasha Talks
Could you begin by telling us about your background, what led you to become a solopreneur, and what specific industry or niche you've carved out for yourself?"
Historically, I've created endeavors in business that catered to different audiences from academia to the business realm. I realized through observation and experience the difference between working for third parties versus working alongside third parties. The sky is the limit when performing for results but often there are limits met under someone else's roof. An individual can host a portfolio of several skill sets yet a third party employer will only reward you for the specific they need at that moment in time. Their way of determining market value will differ than how you assess your worth. They aren't ignoring your other abilities, they're only responding to what their needs demand. When one is building their own endeavor, there are no limitations in how one can simultaneously apply their skill sets catering to different client needs. Value can be perceived and calculated differently, it varies from one endeavor to another. The span of focus mostly resides in the individual's discretion.
The risk and reward(s) metrics also shift when you're serving a larger audience versus when contributing through the channel of a restricted work arrangement through an employer. I encourage people to honor all types of commitments and arrangements to continue their professional and self-development. Building an independent platform with nothing to hide behind comes with greater risk because your strengths and opportunities for growth will shine through your presence. My niche in business and spirituality were derived from my personal life experiences tracing back to my teenage years. Spirituality has always been a part of my life since childhood. I've invested at least two decades contributing to and then becoming part of C-suite when opportunities align with the needs of the market. Those insights were packaged over time through my speaking engagements which gave birth to Sasha Talks as an educational and entertainment platform which also extends niche consulting services.
Starting a business is often a leap into the unknown. In your early days as a solopreneur, what were some unexpected challenges you faced, and what strategies did you develop to overcome them?
As a business professional, I had an idea of what to expect due to working for other start up Founders and Executives. Regardless of how much experience a person brings to the table, there are always lessons ready to reveal themselves when embarking upon a new adventure. Some of those lessons have to do with discovering who you are while others may focus on the technical aspects of what you're bringing to life. There's also that benefit of being human and not knowing everything -- what you don't know can't intimidate you, or compromise your sanity. It's wise to embrace these lessons in a measured manner because there's only so much one can mentally, emotionally and physically process when co-existing with the demands of building anything of value. If you can respect your time and resources, most of the unexpected challenges will resolve themselves over time with the aid of a focused mind.
The key is to remain a student of life. Some people are fooled by their achievements and milestones that they stop learning from their environment in general. The 'holier than art thou' mentality takes over making them think they know everything to pivot through all future changes on their way. Stagnation is a sin when it's dictated by poor minds wanting to cling on to security. This blocks the flow of ideas, rewards and resources from flowing in and out of the space needed to grow an endeavor. While risk and reward are not always proportional in life, it's important to pay attention to yourself. There's a quote by George Soros, "It's not whether you're right or wrong, but how much money you make when you're right and how much you lose when you're wrong." If you pay attention to the decisions referenced in the quote, it's easier to know where more attention is needed in our decision making process. Sometimes in life we need to make dumb decisions where getting burned is the best and unfortunate outcome at the same time. We learn not to make such dumb decisions again. Smart people learn by hitting ground zero, even below ground zero, fast on how to make better decisions. Take accountability, get your ducks in a row, don't complain and keep marching forward. Figure it out yourself. Stop outsourcing the quality of your life to people that have nothing to do with your ROI in life. Only a few people will say this without the fear of being judged -- don't be stupid because stupid people only hang around other stupid people who validate one another thinking they're remarkably accomplished with a negative ROI. Stop the posturing, get real with yourself. The rewards for self-development will start reflecting in other areas of your life including business. Cotton candy guidance will only yield cotton candy results - they melt fast in no time.
Can you share a pivotal moment where you realized that your unique approach was actually working? What did you learn from that experience, and how did it shape your journey?
I believe you need to be committed to your vision for the right reasons. Actions without belief aren't going to deliver valuable progress and longevity in life. People often want the results without wanting to learn the process so they can replicate success and avoid unnecessary failure in the future. Some spaces in the market can serve as narcissistic and fickle breeding grounds because not everyone hosts a similar objective for existing in the market. I knew believing in my vision while remaining true to myself would eventually attract the right third parties to co-exist with in new spaces. This means out of the blue you may get contacted by someone you've heard about your entire life yet you never thought they knew your existed in the first place. It's a side effect of my work, not the objective for why I contribute my insights. Leave room for good surprises in life.
Your success hasn't come overnight. Could you delve into the key principles and practices that you've found most critical in building your business as a solopreneur? What differentiates your method from others?
Belief -- if you can't believe in yourself as a person then how are others going to interpret your presence and contributions in the world? It's your obligation to believe in yourself whether you exist in the business space or not, it's a human trait that can serve you in many areas of life. It's important that you believe in your vision. There's a reason why it was planted in your heart. Not the hearts of others. So stop expecting other people to believe in you in order for you to justify whether you should nurture your vision or not. You are leading the way. Not others in society. Belief will dictate how well you manage yourself in life because there are all types of seasons waiting to test your commitment to your vision. Belief can't be bought. It can't be outsourced. There are no short cuts to developing belief. I personally do not believe true joy can exist in one's life without a healthy baseline of belief. The universe doesn't care who we are, or what attributes we represent in society. It cares to witness whether you're making an effort to discover your worth that can benefit you and others in the journey of life. Life will always reflect back the abundance and lack we exhibit through our beliefs. The fastest way for a person to fail is to think they are the exception to the rule of life and circumstances they created. Yes, we all create circumstances for better or worse. Living a life derived from victimhood is a cop out because we all have a cross and burden to carry in life. If a person thinks that a victimhood personality will grant them the license to cruise through life then it's unfortunate their flawed mindset will aggravate their state of alleged suffering. No one is denying them their perceived reality. It's how they interpret it and what they do from that moment. It's unfortunate such mindsets endured an event that made them perceive they are victims but it's their responsibility to heal.
Healing is a process. It's a life reality most of us face at some moment in time. A victimhood mentality in business and money doesn't garner much sympathy because life goes on. Either you learn fast how to make better decisions. Most of them are dictated by the company you keep. If you're validated by inept people, you will meet the depths of a black hole in no time. Those who have survived such trials know that rebuilding is a process. Those struggling need to learn how to go from a victim to a victor. What do I do that's different? Perhaps not different ... but I learned I am a victim of nothing. I have lived through a lot in life yet becoming a victim is a choice (if you get real and truly think about it). Only enablers will frame their rhetoric and actions to continue feeding the life circumstances of people who choose to be victims. Life is tough, there is no denying it. Still, I believe we humans are stronger when surrounded by the right environments. This isn't about right or wrong, this isn't about morality. This isn't about virtue signaling. Life is simply about cause and effect when we strip it of all ideologies that dress this raw reality. You make decisions and you make them right. It's only for our benefit to learn. Then again, learning is a choice derived from free-will. Life will keep repeating itself, as in business, until we learn lessons designated for us to grow to align with our higher purpose.
Running a business solo requires a blend of skills. How have you balanced the demands of various roles like marketing, product development, and customer service? Can you share any tools or strategies that have been particularly effective?
Because I host experience in start-ups and entrepreneurial spaces, I was exposed to these specialties through my professional endeavors along my career path. These referenced buckets are taken care of in-house with the exception of customer service which was hosted from a call center providing support through online communication portals up til two years ago. As for marketing and raising awareness, 98% of it is done through my own efforts. The latter is an outcome thanks to the trial and error efforts exercised during the initial phases of the platform's launch. I started my career in marketing and account management that I'm able to pivot my abilities and resources when needed. I often see people who invest large amounts on marketing, that's great but often when the surface is scratched, it's a mediocre product and service. Context matters due to the mission of the company.If the objective is right, then I advocate investing in third party marketing. It's rare the quality and consistency of delivery exists over a long period of time when vested in third party vendors. If you really think about most products out there, the well know ones have the best marketing but they aren't necessarily the best product when it comes to quality. It comes down to your strategy and objective, are you focusing on sales or revenue? This is open to interpretation because it will come down to the nature of the business and what actually is being sold. Not everything is marketed the same way through typical channels. For example, methods can vary based on different industries, personality types and availability of services. It's important people understand that money is not a substitute for talent and efforts.
Often the investment in marketing may garner short term results but if it's all smoke and mirrors, it's only a matter of time these brands will hear crickets. Pace yourself. Figure out your needs and invest where attention is needed. Refrain from following the crowd because chances are you'll over invest yourself in spaces where you will yield limited or no results. A common pitfall that entrepreneurs face relates to the lack of focus. Lack of focus will lead to paralysis analysis as well over extending oneself in market spaces where they don't belong. Focus on value and reach but refrain from getting obsessed with results coming from audiences that fall outside of your primary and secondary target market. If you can't engage and sell to your primary target market, then there's a greater problem that needs attention.
Reflecting on your journey, what's one lesson you learned the hard way that you wish you had known when you first started? How would you advise other aspiring solopreneurs?
Set the rules of engagement with clients upfront, especially with your non-negotiables, so clients aren't under the impression they're an exception to the rule. It's amazing how people behave if you grant them an opportunity to be heard. They need to understand you transact through money. As a professional you will honor your obligation. I am not getting hired to validate clients who lack good sense and an objective. If I don't believe in their reasons for connecting, I will no longer create bandwidth to hear them out to assess whether I can help them. It comes down to knowing yourself by setting healthy boundaries. This has nothing to do with closing a sale that will likely turn out to be a pain in the butt. In the past, such characters were delegated to a call center team that engaged them through the online portals like chat. Only the smart minds were able to differentiate whether they were directly in contact with myself or not. I removed all those buffers of engagement in the recent years.
Don't create bandwidth for misaligned clients and needs. This will reduce the number of incidents to close to zero. Every time I've suspected a seed of concern, it always played out with complications. Don't feel bad for people -- they will find another source to help them. If people and businesses are still harping about problems they had ten or twenty years ago, it's clear you did yourself a favor by avoiding train wrecks. When people are serious about exploring and embracing solutions. They will talk less and get to work. Actions speak louder than words. Also I have the 'no a##hole' rule in place. Don't create rules if you aren't willing to enforce them.
Innovation is often key in entrepreneurship. How have you fostered creativity and innovation in your business? What tips can you offer to those seeking to continually innovate in a rapidly changing market?
I simply believe in living life and trying new things so there are new topics to explore through my work channels. This goes beyond reading books and comparable gestures. Go out and live life -- there's no substitute for it. Having fun helps in expanding one's creativity in the process.
Looking forward, what are your plans for the future of your business, and how do you see the landscape for solopreneurs evolving in the next five years?
I believe the solopreneur space will continue growing for at least the next three years as the markets auto correct themselves. I believe it may take 4-7 years to assess whether people have renewed faith for contributing to the workforce through third party employment (as employees), or whether they prefer a new sense of self-cultivated security that comes with its fair share of risk and reward. I believe both can co-exist in one's life, it all comes down to one's priorities in life. It seems either people have learned from the pandemic to value their time more while others have become desensitized to the realities of work that they no longer want to engage in the business space which creates more vacancy for newcomers.