Vicky Wu on What I Learned From My Solopreneur Journey
Vicky Wu is CEO of Vicky Wu Marketing and a Fractional CMO
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?"
I have over 30 years of experience in marketing, including working at the CMO level for Fortune 500 companies. My journey towards becoming a solopreneur began with a realization during a vacation in Paris. A terrorist attack in the city prompted me to reevaluate my life and focus on my long-term goals, leading me to quit my corporate job and start my own business. My business, Vicky Wu Marketing, is a full-service bespoke marketing agency. We focus on a holistic approach, encompassing branding, web, SEO, and social media and full digital presence. Our primary services include Fractional CMO, branding, website and SEO, content marketing, and more. We cater to businesses who are focused on growing to million-dollar years or more.
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?
This is not my first stint as an entrepreneur, and I learned a lot my first time around, yet this time it was a bit different. I was coming off of working multiple years of 80-hour weeks at my corporate job. I knew I needed time to recharge, and forced myself to work less to give me that time. I had no idea it would be so hard, or take so long, to retrain my brain, body and soul to not work a crazy number of hours. That's a bit opposite to what you usually hear; entrepreneurship often takes more than 40 hours per week if you want to have a serious business. I had to choose to grow slow in order to heal. But it was really, really hard to reset my brain and find a healthy balance between work and life.
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?
A pivotal moment came when I saw the transformative impact of our Beyond-the-Graph Growth™ approach on our clients' businesses. This holistic strategy focuses not only on measurable results but also on less tangible victories like stress reduction and enhanced customer service. Seeing clients thrive through this comprehensive approach reinforced my belief in our unique method and shaped our journey towards becoming a trusted partner for businesses seeking growth.
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?
Our success is built on several key principles: Bespoke and Holistic Strategies: Tailoring every strategy to the client's specific needs, providing a comprehensive approach. Experienced and Knowledgeable Guidance: Leveraging my 30 years of experience and MBA in Marketing to offer in-depth expertise. Focused on Client's Budget: Working within the client's budget to maximize returns. Dynamic Contracts: Offering flexibility to adapt to changing business needs. No-Nonsense Approach: Providing straightforward information without BS or fluff. These principles differentiate us by offering a client-centric, budget-conscious, and adaptable approach that many competitors cannot match.
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?
I always tell my audience that you have a Zone of Genius, the area of your business that only you can serve, or that requires your direct attention. Everything else needs to be left for someone else to do. Often, unless your business is marketing (like mine is), this includes outsourcing your marketing to the pros. In my case, it's outsourcing those other things, such as accounting, that while I can do those things, my business benefits most when my focus is elsewhere. So I take my own advice and outsource, and in my case even some of my own marketing tasks, such as social media, I even outsource to my own team.
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?
To say no immediately. I have encountered a couple of clients (thankfully only a couple, as I learned this lesson quickly) that something about them had my gut instincts poking at me, despite the efforts I was taking to prequalify everyone and make sure that I'm the right fit for their needs. I couldn't have put my finger on exactly what it was before they became a client, just a general feeling of something small being off. Once I got into the depths of working with them, I found out what was bothering me when I started seeing big red flags. These cost me a lot of stress and loss of noticeable amounts of money. I don't even bother trying to prequalify these prospects nowadays when something feels off ... I just listen to my instincts and "bless and release" as I used to say when I was in the nonprofit world.
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 was thinking with a marketing brain when I was still in elementary school. I remember designing things; one that comes to mind is this amusement park which had a theme of fruits and vegetables. I've been an artist since I was that age, drawing and painting, so I would sketch out the whole park on paper, drawing the rides. A tomato would be a spinning cup-type ride, with the seeds being the cups you ride in. But I would go beyond that and be designing all of the other little pieces that would go into it, the parking lot, the logo, totally branding the entire thing on paper. I would even draw out what the customers look like--I was doing customer "avatars" before it became a big thing or I had even heard of them--and what the TV commercial would look like. I didn’t know any of this was "marketing." I just knew I was having fun. So I think we all need to have fun. I wrote about fostering creativity on my blog a while back, and one of the things I said was "Creativity requires you to tap into joy. It has you accessing and expressing your life force and natural gifts." And also don't fall into the trap of thinking creativity is only for X or Y professions; everyone is born creative, we just are taught over the years not to be. This is one lesson that is good to forget.
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?
Looking forward, I plan to continue expanding our full-service offerings and promoting Fractional CMO services even more. While there is a lot of technology coming down the pike that promises to make jobs easier, it's also easy to get lost in all of the options that technology offers. I think this will make entrepreneurs even more confused rather than give them clarity. In my role as a Fractional CMO, I can bring best practices that I've seen and gained in my 30 years of experience to help entrepreneurs find that clarity for their marketing and their business. I see the landscape for solopreneurs evolving towards more collaboration and integration, with a focus on holistic strategies that consider the entire business ecosystem. The future will likely demand more tailored solutions, and I believe Vicky Wu Marketing is well-positioned to meet these evolving needs.
For those who want to know more about you, your work, or perhaps even become a client or collaborator, how can they best get in touch or follow your journey?
Twitter @vickywuguru / LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/vickypenn/