AJ Vaden Imperfectly empowered podcast with ahna fulmer

3 Steps To Build & Monetize Your Personal Brand

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Leading personal brand expert and successful 8 figure entrepreneur (several times over), AJ Vaden, shares her entrepreneurial journey, practical advice for business success, and ideas to balance family and work life.

Listen in to learn about the 4 phases that will take your idea from a concept to an 8-figure personal brand.

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  • The traditional focus of family business
  • 2 different types of entrepreneurial mindsets
  • AJ’s ultimate secret to success
  • The research to support personal branding
  • Creative ideas to balance work and family life
  • 2 opportunities to build a personal brand
  • 3 things that all STRONG entrepreneurs do to build trust 


AJ Vaden is the CEO and Co-Founder of Brand Builders Group and one of the world’s leading experts in personal brand strategy.  She has helped to create, launch and grow several multi-million dollar businesses and is the Co-Host of The Influential Personal Brand Podcast which Forbes named as one of the top 10 podcasts to listen to in 2021 and was recently named as one of the top 5 personal branding speakers.


Leading personal brand expert and successful 8 figure entrepreneur (several times over), AJ Vaden, shares her entrepreneurial journey, practical advice for business success, and ideas to balance family and work life.


Ahna Fulmer Signature

I had already signed to this year long contract and made a huge mistake by getting swept up in the moment of something that I was aggressively chasing after. What’s the one thing you’ve learned from this. It’s just take a moment and stand back and go. I know exactly how I will vet every single vendor contract.
Moving forward. Welcome to the M perfectly empowered podcast with leading DIY lifestyle blogger on a Fullmer where women are inspired with authentic stories and practical strategies to reclaim their hearts and homes by empowering transformation. One imperfect day at a time. Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast.
I am your host on a former today on the podcast. We have AAJ Vaden, AGA is the CEO and co-founder of the brand builders. And one of the world’s leading experts in personal brand strategy, she has helped to create launch and grow several multi-million dollar businesses and is the co-host of the influential personal brand podcast, which Forbes named as one of the top 10 podcasts to listen to in 2021, and was recently named as one of the top five personal branding speakers featured in Inc success magazine, fast company, entrepreneur, and good morning America.
Welcome personal branding, expert AJV. Well welcome AIJ to the podcast. We were just chatting about your snow dusting there in the background and how you’re not a happy camper. I’m not, I’m an avid say I’m not snow friendly, not snow friendly. Oh, well the sad thing is there’s a lot of people living up north, like myself who are also not snow friendly.
So I do understand, I have to tell a quick story about you. You heard me tell you the story. I think when I met you in person this summer, so I met AIJ for the very first time virtually at a business conference that was primarily geared toward women. And it was a two part conference and the first day were multiple speakers and everyone listening and watching has heard me say this before, but I am not about the like motivational speeches.
I’m more about the, how to guides. I’m motivated do it. I need to know how to. And so the first day was very much geared to like, you can do it sort of that motivational, which I understand is important. I do understand that. However, I remember telling my husband, like, I just, I feel like I haven’t really learned yet how to grow my business, not a business woman here by trade or experience really.
And then the next day Aja went on and I remember as soon as she started talking, I was like, ah, a woman who speaks my language. Like she just cut to the chase. It was practical, like advice that I could dig my teeth into and I could write down action items. So that is AGA if you don’t know. That is her in a very quick nutshell from somebody who has observed her and certainly gotten to know much better since we mentioned how you are a leading expert here in the world of personal branding.
And she is the co-founder of the business group that I’m part of called the brand builders group. I’m wondering, did you grow up? I mean, you have successfully started multiple companies. Did you grow up in a business minded home or was it something that you developed over time? Like when did this start for you?
No, it’s so funny. You ask at, never get asked this. And this is like the third time in two weeks that I’ve been asked this. Oh, 70. So I’ve got a well prepped in my mind, but yeah, I was really fortunate. I was really blessed to grow up and a very entrepreneurial spirited family at my grandfather. Started.
Well, actually he bought out his boss, but he started our kind of family business. Um, we’ll celebrate 70 years as a family business this year in 2022. And it’s a construction business. But when my grandfather started it back in the forties, um, it was very much a timber business, or they took timber, turned it into lumber.
My dad bought out my grandfather in the late seventies and turned it into a wholesale construction business. So they sell everything you need to do or everything you need to build a home. So I grew up literally in the eighties, like playing with forklifts and writing on stirs and hanging out in the warehouses and counting a kid’s dream.
Growing up on forklifts is not something you hear. A lot of people say, like, I remember like counting all the change from the candy machines and the coconut. I remember in high school, he was like, I’ll pay you to clean the toilet. And I was like, fuck, it can’t be that bad. And then it dawned on me, oh, this is a construct, worst job on.
Um, so yeah, I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family and. I took my first job when I was in college, outside of my family business at the macaroni grill. And I was the hostess with the mostess. I remember even as a 19 year old in college, who was like really working for the first time outside of his family business going, Ooh, I don’t know if this is for me, this whole idea of like you tell me when to be here.
You tell me how long I have to stay. You tell me how much I can make. Wow. That’s a lot to swallow. And then I went to school and I graduated early because I was so. Insistent on not being dependent on my parents to provide for me, because I wanted to make my own financial choices to independent woman. I desperately not depend on you.
I will not go back to the family business. Did you go to school for art?
And she grew up in a construction company, business entrepreneur, and she went to school for art. I love it. Yes. Yeah. Pieces together quite seamlessly. Right. But I took this job out of school. I lasted. And I realized really early on in my life that I was virtually unemployable and a huge part of that was because how I was raised, how I was raised.
So I’ve always had a deep internal desire of, I will make my own way. I will figure this out. And I think a lot of that came just by osmosis, by watching my parents, my parents were in business together. They were business partners until my mom had three kids under five, and then she was very busy at home.
But then being in the workforce is what really pushed me into my entrepreneurial. Yeah. Yeah. Going, yeah. There’s gotta be another way. I’m curious. Did your parents at any point recognize, like, did you ever hear from them? I don’t know if you’re cut out for the working world. Like, did you ever hear that from them before you entered into the workforce?
Or is it something that was just, you figured out on your own. No, it was definitely something I figured out on my own. My dad was hoping and praying. I could make it work for us, not the other way around, because I think the one thing my dad knew is that I was not coming to work for the family business.
And I made that really clear of like, I’m not going to stay in our hometown. This is not what I want, but I’m pretty sure they were hoping and praying someone would hire me. And it would all work out. Hire this woman, please. I’m curious. Cause it’s really, I think it’s a fascinating figuring it out. It’s like you go to school for all this.
And then, I mean, this is coming from somebody who has two masters in nursing and is now not working in medicine. So I’m preaching to myself here, but I’m curious now, as a parent, do you think about like with your kids, do you think there’s a way as a parent that we could kind of. Them into, cause I also don’t think everyone is cut out for the entrepreneur world and just like, we need people who are willing to work the nine to five jobs.
Right. Somebody has to do it. So I also humbly recognize that all these guests we have on telling you to like, find your dream, create your own. Yes, you can do that. But you could also do that working a nine to five job. So as a parent, I’m curious with your experience, what things would you be looking for in your kids to help guide them?
Maybe they should consider the entrepreneur world. Maybe it’s not for them, even though they have two parents who are in the entrepreneur world, kind of like the opposite of your experience. Do you think about that at all? I do it. Actually. You said something I have to comment on and then I promise I’ll answer this question.
No worries. What are the things that I would say is when I left my very brief stint in corporate America, six weeks, here’s the things that I realized is what I really did was I traded in security and 40 hours of expectations for 80 hours of work and no expectations and no security. And it was like, you know, I hear people talk about this all the time.
It’s like jumping off a cliff and building the parachute as you fall down. Right. I do not think everyone should do that. Right. That is a very certain individual who goes, I’m just going to lay it all out. There I’ll work all the hours. I don’t think that’s healthy for a lot of people. I don’t think it’s healthy for me, but that is what it was.
And I would say too, one of the things that I reminded them so constantly is like, there are all different types of people that have to make this world go round. And I think being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest. Things that you could ever choose to do. Right. It is so hard. And there’s many days when I’m like, Hmm, man, what would it be like to be able to mentally shut off at five o’clock or what would it be like to not feel the weight of other people’s families on my shoulders?
So I would just second it’s like what I really did and I traded in 40 hours for 80 hours and consistent pay for no pay, but it really happened. Surprise. Didn’t see that coming now when it comes to my kids, I would say I desperately, like, I even tell my husband this. He was also my business partner, that my goal as a parent is that I would create an environment where my kids want to be around us.
Like that would be like at the end of like their kind of like childhood age and like they were graduating high school and whatever it’s like for them to look around and go, like, my parents are so awesome. I want to work in their business with them, or I want to hang out or want to stay in this town.
Now that may not happen. I’m going to have to swallow that pill. Yeah, but today here’s what I would say is that I do very much try to instill an entrepreneurial spirit. However, they use that, which could be in corporate America. It could be in all different types of professions, but I think the most important thing for me right now, and I’ve got little littles, I have a two and a half and a four and a half Liam.
Right, right now they’re like, they want to be around you cause you have candy or they have visitors. Or maybe that’s just my children. I’m like, I swear, you just love me for food. That’s probably half of it. But what I want to do for them is I want to instill in them. I love for working. Yeah, I don’t want it to be just about this whole attitude of it’s about making money.
I want to do this. And one of the things that I’m really conscious about is my language with my kids and it’s, I never have to go to work. I never have to. And this is a real conditioning. I always tell my kids that mommy gets to this meeting. Mommy gets to run this, you know, payroll. So I have, if I could pick up my computer I’d show, but I have set them up their own desks.
So this is my office. And so there is a kid section of my office and they have a shared desk with two chairs. And at certain times of the day, when I’m not on calls or on podcasts and it’s quiet working time, I will allow them to come in here and practice their puzzles or their reading or their letters.
I’ll let Jasper learn Excel with me. I let him help set up podcast interviews, but it’s a passion for wanting to work and then help them learn what we do. Yeah. I mean, I love that because I think it also speaks into multiple facets of life. I mean, even if it’s sports, a sports practice, that same mentality that you’re talking about can be applied.
To anything. It’s that idea of like, no, it’s really a privilege that you get to go to practice that you have two working legs that you can run around and use. So I think that mindset that what you’re talking about is an incredible piece of advice for all of us. Parents is watching our language that we’re teaching our kids a mindset really of gratitude is what you’re saying.
It’s this mentality of gratitude. And ultimately then generosity, the sense that my attitude of I get to do X, Y, Z is going to also then generously project that concept to the people that you’re around that know this is a privilege to be able to do this. So I think that’s great. It’s a great piece of advice.
You have been CSO, COO, CFO, CEO, basically any position that starts with CNN’s with though you have been in all of these positions. What has been the greatest challenge that you feel like you have faced? Is there a moment in time that you remember thinking, like it was maybe the wall seemed especially high and wide in this particular scenario?
And then tell me a little bit about how you went around through under however, past the such a good question. And I honestly feel like I’m kind of doing one of those things right now. And one of the things I have found to be extremely challenging is to grow yourself as a leader with people who knew you when you were not a leader.
And so it’s changing a culture. Yeah. Higher group of people of, no, I am the CEO. Now this is no longer a colleague relationship. And it’s a privilege to get to work with people who you’re also friends with. And it’s also a really big challenge. Um, learning to set work boundaries and respect boundaries, and those go both ways.
And so I think one of the things that’s a real challenge for people is change. And I mean, change as a human changes, a person of going, that’s not how I operate anymore and reconditioning a group of people to understand a new set of guidelines and a new set of restrictions that didn’t exist before with no real reason why other than you have changed and the company changed and things have elevated, um, in different arenas.
I think that has been one that’s been the most personally challenging emotions. That’s really hard. The second one that I would say is a little bit more logical and tactical is I have become literally obsessed with tax strategy. I again said very few people ever in their life. So it’s funny though, because I love it again, just the way that we think.
And I am not again by education necessarily a business woman, or even really nurtured to be one. But I understood that very quickly. Like, because when I looked at my taxes again, the swipe in swipe out job of even medicine and the W2 employee, it did not take me long to figure out like, okay, now that I am suddenly working on my own, none of this is getting taken out this tax.
I need to figure out how to do. Like there has to be strategies. I just didn’t know what they were. And that was one of the things I asked to AAJ. I think at one point this summer, when we were, I was like, what is the one thing you would tell me? Clearly, very successful business woman speaking to somebody who doesn’t have experience.
And she was like tax law. I said, yep. This is why I love you. What are those things where, you know, it’s, and here’s why I say why this has been such a big wall is you think the professionals that you hire have your best interests. And I have learned repeatedly, that’s not true. It’s not accurate. Don’t count on it.
Don’t count that they actually know more than you do, right. Or, you know, it’s like, I, I find even today who and I love here, we currently work with, um, it’s been a challenge, like three different changes in five years ago. This is a good part for us. And this. But even then I still, I know now I have the expectation as the business owner to go out, learn, find strategies, and then I still send them back to them to bet.
And although I get annoyed on the daily that I’m having to pay you to vet something that I went and discovered to save me money and you’re paying me to do it. Oh my gosh. Don’t even get me started on this, but it’s the price you pay to be an entrepreneur, but it’s also, it’s like, am I willing to spend a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars to save tens of thousands?
All right. And it’s, I totally thought that the tax professionals, that the financial professionals would be the ones to find those strategies and bring them to me. And so I sat and wait for years and then realize, oh no, that’s not how this works. Right. That’s not how it works. And so again, just taking ownership of this is my business.
No one is going to take care of it. Like I would, no, one’s going to watch over my money. Like I would just like, as a parent, I don’t care how good you are as a babysitter or a nanny. No, one’s going to love my kids. Like I do. And you got to treat your business the same way. Do you think other people have all the ins and outs thoughts?
They do not. That is your responsibility. Yeah. It’s extreme ownership. That concept of extreme. I can’t say this word, extreme ownership, any more coffee? My four year old didn’t go to school today. And I swear she was like sucking up my brain cells by osmosis. It’s like, I know she’s here. And so my brain is literally losing.
It’s interesting that you talk about the money aspect, because I think this is also true of time. I think, as an entrepreneur, you know, one of the things I’ve heard so many times, so in the blogging world is how many bloggers are hesitant to hire a virtual assistant because of the amount of time it takes them to teach them what they want them to do, but they’re still paying them to do the things they’re teaching them to do.
And in my mind, it’s like, if you take the time initially to do the research yourself, figure out what it is you want teach them to do it the way that you like it. You’ve now saved yourself time in the long run by investing the time upfront. So it’s sort of what you’re saying. It’s like invest in the money upfront to, even though you’re paying the person to do kind of what you’re doing, but then in the end use.
Profit, whether it be financially or even just from a time standpoint. Oh yeah. One of my favorite quotes of all time is there are two different types of mindsets out there, right there. Isn’t a wealthy mindset who spends money to save time. And there’s an unwealthy mindset who spends time money. Right?
And it’s like at the end of the day, we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and go, what’s the one thing that is truly finite. And that is time. You did not get those minutes back. You do not get those hours back. You can make more money, you can lose more money. You can spend more, but you can make more time.
Doesn’t work that way when it’s gone, it’s gone. Right. It’s fine. Yeah. I just interviewed somebody recently and they said a quote that they love that ultimately gave this concept of time is going to pass by anyone. So you might as well use it to do what you want to do. Like whatever you want to get, don’t delay a goal simply because of the time it takes, because time is going to pass regardless.
So you might as well choose to use it in a way that will benefit you longterm, which is exactly what you’re speaking to there. One of the other questions that I love asking people, and you have a unique perspective because not only do you have your own experience to speak to, but you can also speak through the lens of somebody who has worked with many other successful entrepreneurs, New York times bestsellers eight figure entrepreneurs, some of the world’s leading top brands based on your observation of their success and your own success in life.
If you could boil it down to one word or one phrase, what would it be? What is the one word or one phrase that kind of encapsulates that concept of success that you’ve noticed discipline? I mean, it’s not new. It’s not sexy. It’s not trendy, but it’s discipline. Ultimately it’s being willing to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.
And it’s not only bad. It’s being willing to do them in the face of adversity and the face of, I don’t want to feel like it, but being disciplined enough to realize that if you keep going, if for no other reason, if you simply out last every week, You will win. Always. Eventually I think a challenge in our world today as we want it right now.
And if we don’t see success right now, if we don’t see online growth or engagement or money right now, we think it’s not working. And it’s like, what in life is that immediate? Like if we went on a diet and didn’t eat carbs for a week, would we expect to lose 10 pounds? No. Right. If we wanted to get out of debt, um, do you think we’re going to pay off our credit card bills a week?
No, but somehow we expect the other things that we try to do, like growing a business or growing a following or creating a personal brand or growing the business to happen immediately. And it just doesn’t. And so I’d say disciplined first patients second I think a lot of it is perspective too. I mean, what you’re talking about.
And I think this is a lot of times a society concept and something that we live in, but it’s sort of that instant gratification concept that our idea of success in what we’re wanting is sometimes confused with progress. It’s like, what you’re talking about is that concept of disciplines. That’s literally what this podcast is all about.
This idea of empowering transformation in our lives, getting what we want by leveraging the imperfect progress by embracing the fact that we’re not going to get it right the first time really owning the imperfection. That is so true of all of our lives. And then. Using that to actually leverage that growth and success.
And I think what you’re speaking to is that very concept that if you can start focusing each day on the areas of progress, as opposed to just simply that end goal of success, you will get closer and closer to that goal. And it’s that idea of creating disciplines. So that you’re a little bit more resilient to the steps backward.
Yeah. And I would say this too, it’s not one word that it is something that I have conditioned myself to embrace. Is it for sure doesn’t come natural, but embrace and expect. Mistakes. So you’re going to make them, I make, I made a huge mistake just about 45 days ago, like six weeks ago. And I hired a new vendor ironically about tech strategy because they gave like this really big.
In their opinion, revolutionary ID to the business, but they’re like, but we’re not going to tell you what it is because blah, blah, blah. And I got swept up in this $180,000 in tax savings. What am I missing? What in it’s I got totally swept up in this idea only to learn that it wasn’t quite apples to apples.
I had already signed this year long contract and made a huge mistake by getting swept up in the moment of something that I was aggressively chasing after. I feel like I have to master this when it’s like, you don’t have to master it. Baby steps apply one thing at a time, completely overworked myself.
During my Christmas holidays was getting up at 6:00 AM to try to make this happen. Then I’ve spent the last two weeks fighting to try to dismantle this agreement. I had to get my CPS involved. I’ve now spent twice as much money. Yeah. I mean, it’s just, and here’s what it is at the end of the day. My husband was like, what’s the one thing you’ve learned from this.
It wasn’t, I can’t believe he did this. How barrier it’s so irresponsible. It was, what’s the one thing you’ve learned from this, and it’s just take a moment and stand back and go. I know exactly how I will vet every single vendor contract moving forward. Right. There will be a process and a heavier vetting.
There will be references. There will be all the things that I would normally do if I wasn’t swept up in the statement. And I’m so glad that this happened, because it was a necessary setback for me to go, don’t get caught up and do your due diligence. Do what you know to do. And now I have a whole new process of how I’m going to vet vendors.
However, painful and expensive I feel is necessary for my growth and my position. And so just expect mistakes. Embrace them. Don’t consider them failures. They’re mistakes. Failures are only. I love the concept of it, kind of what you were talking about is this idea of like take a deep breath, take a deep breath.
And you know, you kind of look back and the frustration is part of it, right? Like we’re going to get frustrated. Oh my gosh. I mean, when you enter into a undertaking and a goal and a resolution, no matter how big or small it is, a process is a process of empowering yourself with knowledge on how to accomplish that goal.
That’s a frustrating process in and of itself. There’s going to be mistakes there. Then even when you have the knowledge, somebody like AIJ, who has the knowledge, she has done this quite a few times. It’s still that concept of. The mistakes are going to happen. Allow yourself the grace to be frustrated.
I’m guessing, worried and ask you that the next day. No, but it was guessing gave you some space to let yourself be frustrated because that’s the reality. Like we’re going to get frustrated. We obviously don’t love the process of making the mistake. And sometimes we kick ourselves and think, man, like that was so unnecessary.
I didn’t, I did not need to do that, but it’s like, you’re saying, so you allow the frustration it happens. But then instead of allowing that to deter you from moving forward, it’s like you use it. You leverage it to do it better the next time. Probably still not perfect, but better that concept of one, one imperfect data time, one step forward.
So we talked about Jasper and Liam. You have these two little boys and I love your honesty and your openness about the reality of life is not perfect. Even with success. There’s a lot of challenges. There’s a lot. Difficulties that come with that. How do you balance work life as a mom and an entrepreneur?
I mean the whole question of how you balance work life. Yeah. Mom is a great question in and of itself. But when you’re an entrepreneur, like you’ve just mentioned, the brain is in a million different open windows at a time. It’s like you probably have 10 open windows all of the time, including the mom one.
How do you navigate those windows? When do you realize you need to close one? When do you say, okay, deep breath. I’m going to leave it open, but I need to make these adjustments. How do you navigate that? Yeah. Help you need help. I know. I remember when I was pregnant, when my mom died, when I was young, I was 15 when my mom died.
And so I haven’t had a maternal figure in my life for a really long time. And when I was pregnant, people always make this comment of, you know, it takes a. Well, it takes a village. And I started asking where’s this village. Yeah. Who are these people? Where’s the village. Where’s my village because I didn’t have a mom to come and stay for two weeks to help.
And it was all these interesting things. And then I realized, oh no, it’s your job to build the village. Hmm. All right. That was my job. I kind of waited and I was like, where’s the village? Where’s it going to show up? And so I think some of it just it’s embraced that it looks different for every person.
And for me it’s my husband was very much the one who was like, it’s okay to not be able to do all the things they write. It’s really. Okay. So what are the things that are most important for you to do and then how do we get help and support to fill in the gaps? And that was a really. Good healthy process, especially in those first two years for me of going, where do I feel like God is calling me to be at these moments?
Because I also feel like I wasn’t called to be a stay-at-home mom. And I think that’s okay. I should have no shame in that. And I think some people are, and I think they should own it and own it with power. But for me it was, I am so passionate about what we’re doing in our company. And so it’s, we have a nanny and we have a backup babysitter.
I have my kids in a homeschool hybrid. Like we made the decision traditional school wasn’t for us. And there was a lot of judgment flying our way. Mainly me putting it on myself. Like, am I robbing my kids have some sort of white experience if we’re not going to do it that way, but it’s setting down and going, like, this is a family we want to create.
We want to travel with our kids. We want to introduce entrepreneurial-ism to our kids and we’re going to need help doing it. So I have a lot of help. Right. And I think you can get creative in how you get help. Right. It doesn’t mean you have to have a ton of money to have help that it’s fine. You know, maybe it’s an hour a day, right?
Can we afford 20 bucks to hire someone an hour, a day to come and do the basic necessities? And so I think help is the first one. I think the second is from boundaries. You’ve gotta have really firm boundaries. And so my kids are my accountability part. And they are way more hardcore than my husband ever be, because my husband’s like, I understand you’re really overwhelmed, like five 30, they bust in this door and they’re like, you’re done put down your phone.
Given my kids permission. Mama’s done Monday through Thursday at five 30 on Fridays. I’m done at three 30 Jasper James and Liam Vaden walk into this office every single day. And whether I like it or not, we have. Like it is time. And so it’s inviting your kids in to be a part of the process and the journey.
And to me, they’re the ones who held me accountable and we have a policy like at five 30, the phone is done. So I have my phone set on silent mode, like do not disturb mode, starting at five 30 every night. And you’re going to have to really work hard to find me after five 30. In a work-related environment.
And then once my kids go to bed, I’ll check stuff. But I think the other thing is too it’s I just decided that on some occasions, getting up earlier and doing a little bit of work before my family wakes up and before my day gets started, I was going to see something. I had to learn how to do. I’m not a morning person.
Not like it. It’s just, I’m not that person that I naturally either. Yeah. It’s like, oh my gosh, I need coffee. I need something before you don’t want to meet me before. Correct. Don’t talk to me. Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me. I need five cups of coffee before you even think about talking to me. I am not, I’m not, I don’t function well, but I literally am like, et cetera.
I’m going to do it after the kids go to. And I miss my time with my husband or my husband gets up at five 30 every day to go do his little infrared sauna. So I have conditioned myself. I get up and do as little infrared sauna. That’s hilarious. So he’s doing a sauna. I wish that’s what I was doing, but I have found it’s like that quiet time in the morning.
That I so used to love just laying in bed, doing nothing. It’s like, no, actually this is necessary. So that I get with my husband at night time with my kids when it’s phones off and then creating very intentional time on Fridays at three o’clock where my husband and I both are done at three and we have extended family time.
And then all day, Saturday and Sunday, and I have found it’s more about intentional time than quantity of time. We’re really intentional about it, but I think the best thing I’ve done in all of this is one I’m not ashamed and I’m not embarrassed. To hire, help and go, I cannot do this. I need you to help me however silly or mundane.
It means same. But then also it’s like, yeah, I would rather spend my money there than on going out to eat. I, if it comes down to it, we don’t eat at home because I’m going to put my money here and to inviting my kids to be my accountability partners have been the best two things that I have done since becoming a mom.
Yeah. I want to reiterate something that Aja said for you guys, listening and watching. It’s easy to hear this and think, well, they have a lot of money, so it’s easier to hire help. And AIG pointed this out. But for those of you, especially that don’t have family. We’re so blessed to have tons of family.
That just makes such a difference. But a lot of you don’t have family around and you may not have the extra income to be able to spend a lot of money on regular help. But a couple of thoughts I would have for you is one, if you are in a church community or any type of community where there’s more than a handful of people, resource them, find out if you can swap opportunities to kind of leverage your time and your service to each other and offer maybe an hour for somebody else.
You give me an hour to be able to have that time. Also, this sounds a little dangerous, but I would consider it, reach out to your friends on Facebook. Like put it out there. Maybe there is a really responsible college student who would love to make a couple extra bucks and you can certainly vet them, but get creative, like AGA just said, consider creative ways.
Maybe it’s cleaning. Maybe throw it out there on Facebook, say, Hey, does anyone have a clean mind? Every two weeks so that you can spend less time cleaning and more time with your kids. There are creative ways to delegate is what we are both saying here. So get creative mommas. You don’t have to do all of the things.
It is okay to spend money on help and you’re supporting somebody else too. So those would be creative ideas to get there, to see what do you have to borrow? Yeah. Yep. So if you are a thriving entrepreneur, perhaps an almost graduating college student is like, just need some mentoring. And, you know, he say, it’s like, this could be part-time nanny part-time internship.
There you go. You’re going to need four job references. So it’s like, I’m going to give you some of these tasks. These are the other tasks I have welcome to real life. Welcome to entrepreneurship. You’re going to be doing all the things. Perhaps you’re a health coach or whatever fitness, like, think about like, how can I barter my skills, my knowledge, my expertise, to get help in other areas where maybe I can’t financially afford it, but I do have these amazing skills to barter.
I love that. And I will also throw one more thing out there is if you don’t have a skill that you feel like you can barter, there is one skill that absolutely everybody has and everybody needs, and it is the skill of accountability. So if you have people around you, they’re trying to set a goal. Health and fitness, I mean is like the easiest one that comes up there and people will pay for accountability.
People will offer their time in return for your accountability. So throw out there that I will text you. I will call you once every whatever in exchange for you to come do. XYZ because people need accountability. People will pay for accountability. They’ll offer time and service for accountability. So that is something that you can offer an exchange.
If you don’t feel like you have a skill. So I’ll throw that out there as well. We’re going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we’re going to hear more about. AJS expertise on personal branding. We’re going to talk about some research that they did recently. Right? When we come back from this break, you have tried it all worried.
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And start your own transformation story. We are back here with AIJ Vaden. What I did not tell AIG before we went for break, is that we’re going to play a quick round of this or that age. You’re going to get two options, no stress, just pick whichever one comes to mind. First cake or pie. Hey, favorite cake coconut.
Ooh, I have not heard that one yet. Do you have a favorite coconut cake somewhere? That’s a really specific it’s like coconut cream pie. People are like, this is the best. My aunt Connie’s aunt Connie’s homemade coconut cake, aunt Connie. We need your recipe for those coconut levers. So good Kindle or old fashioned book.
Oh, definitely a book. Yeah, definitely. If you could own one or the other, would you own a personal yacht or a personal jet? Maybe you do own one of these. I don’t even know. We do not. I’m I would earn a jet, a jet. Where would you go? Where’s the first place the Vaden family would go in your personal life.
Anything else in life. Oh, where skinny Tuscany. Okay. Have you been to Tuscany? Yes. Yes. Where do we need to visit and Tuscany? Where do I need to visit countryside? Right. It’s like, I mean, one, I love wine. So wine country appeals to me, but there is something about the tusk and hillsides and the rolling Hills.
That’s absolutely breathtaking. And you can see for miles and miles, and there’s not too many structures or too many buildings and it just feels like another world. Yeah. I think I feel that way about a lot of the countries in Europe, it really is other worldly, cat, or dog, New York or Paris who I’m going to say.
Oh, that’s a good one that I’m going to say New York. Okay. Would you rather go to a Titans football game or a country music concert? Ooh, that’s hardcore being in Nashville, huh? Oh man. Well, I would say if it’s right now, currently I would be saying the Titans were perceives. Talk. That one fingers crossed Superbowl’s coming our way.
So tense. I would say Titans game outside of football season, I would say definitely a country music concert. Who are you going to go see? Ooh, Garth Brooks. Garth Brooks. Okay. Listen, I love country. I know you went though. I have seen Garth and concert. It’s the best concert I’ve ever seen. Really hands down and I’ve seen some really good ones.
I’d take the second best concert I’ve ever seen. It’s not country is pit bull. Oh, interesting. I went begrudgingly. I can’t believe we’re going to this. Yeah. I could not contain myself. I’ll tell you the best part about it is pit bull. Does all these little motivational speeches in between all of this song?
Huh? That is random was so good. So good. And then Garth are my top two pit bull. Are you guys write it down? And then when you’re done with that, you can go see a Titans game fingers crossed. They stay as good as they’re you spearheaded a national research study. About personal branding. And it really, I mean, I’m all about the research.
John Hopkins grad here was drilled into me. Research is the name of the game. And it really proved that personal branding is the future of marketing and has become a foundational element in how we live and make decisions, not just as business owners, but as consumers. And it is kind of the way of just marketing and business in general.
So before we dive into that a little. The question you’ve probably gotten asked the most in your life, what is a personal brand? And then tell me a little bit more, what did your research study confirm about personal branding? Yeah, I mean, honestly answering that question was the biggest catalyst for going out and doing this research study.
And there was a lot of ambiguity around what is a personal brand. And so many people associate a personal brand with social media. Yeah, that is not a personal brand, right? That is how you build a platform. That is how you grow your audience. That is not, and that’s only one tool of how you do those things.
It is not a personal brand. And so we have a formal definition of a personal brand, our company, brand builders group. And to us, I, personal brand is the digitization and the monetization of your reputation. And I think that’s a really important distinction because everyone has a reputation, whether you like it or know it, you do.
And that means you also already have a personal brand, right. To us. I reputation I personal brand is what people think about when they think of you. So ask yourself, what do people think about when they think about you and is it something that you are proactively curating or is it by default? Right.
Right. And I think that’s a huge part of really establishing this proactive, intentional approach I go in, this is what I want to be known for. So now I’m going to go get known for that. That is personal branding, right? And it’s an extension of your reputation. Now, when we did this study, we asked this question to Americans all across the United States.
And I, that is important to note, this is a study strictly done in the United States. Although I do strongly believe a lot of these trends are shared across the globe, but it is specific to the United States. And I think that two is by itself, a really important thing. This is not a fad, right? Basically as a trend and it is a growing trend.
So we asked him for Americans, what do you consider a personal brand? How was that was the question. The study was trying to answer basically what is, and then what are the impacts of one? So that was the point of the study is what is one. And then what are the. Of one and all these different arenas that I’m here to ask really quick.
Did you control, so when you set that out into the American population, how did you control for, or be able to capture the data in who you were polling? Like, did you have part of that? Like I’m an employee that works nine to five job. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a. How did you capture that? I’m curious what your demographic was that you actually captured such a good thing.
So, one, we hired an independent research firm, so we hired PhDs who have a research firm, and this is what they do as a living. So this was not us asking her friends. Yeah. They were not emailing. It was not on my Instagram account. This was real on Instagram story. We spent a whole bunch of money as a company to go and pull this off.
It took three months to go out and feel the data another six months to analyze some mate and put this research together. So all in, like we were doing this like heavily for nine months and we just released it and Q4 of last year. And so they went out. So here are some of the high level things that’s really important.
This is very equitable across race, ethnicity, age, economic diversity, and geography across the United States. It was 50 50 male female. Right. But then here are the other things that I think are really important. High level distinctions is every single person was employing. So they could be self-employed that could be an employer that could be an employee, but they were employed.
So currently working. I think that was the first thing. And then the other big one, I already mentioned, this is strictly in the United States outside of that, everything else was very fair and equitable amongst age, gender, race, ethnicity, income industries, titles, everything else was quite equitable. And so, but I think the most important thing is hire someone who does this as a living hire a research firm.
You want to do an Instagram stories does not count as research. People does not count. And so across that, and I think those are important because one of the things we did is we split all of their responses across all generations, because we wanted to know, is it more popular? Is it more trendy with gen Z or millennials or is it.
I dunno, maybe more important to focus on gen X or baby boomers, where do those trends lie? So every single data point that we pull it, we split it across those four different generations. So I think that two is really unique. It’s not just a set of data. It’s then the data was split across categories. You happen to have an employee demographic that was higher than others.
Like we’re there maybe like 40% in healthcare and that’s how. No, all of her words spread very intentionally widespread and do one at something that was not heavily weighted in any one industry, by any title, by any income group, females, males, very split and you’d have to do it that way to make it statistically valid.
Correct. It has to be that way. And so we asked this question across all these different individuals, what is a personal brand? And you named a mislead. It came back is very simple and quite straightforward. I, personal brand is simply someone who is recognizable to me, that’s it? It was not a social media.
Influencer was not a celebrity was not a politician. It was someone whom I recognize. So what does that mean to us? And I think this was really an important aha moment of going personal branding is not new. Right terms for what we already know to be true, which is a reputation, because you think about it, you go back to when my dad was a kid in the fifties, everyone around his small town, doc, Georgia, where I grew up, they had personal brand, right.
Everyone knew who was the local pastor, who was the school principal who owned the local grocery store. Like they knew who you were, right by your reputation, your personal brand. The difference today is that that is an expedited opportunity, right? Because of the internet and social media and Tik TOK and YouTube and podcasting.
I mean, Napoleon was a personal brand. We monetize this reputation. Right, right. I mean, we still talk about people like mother Teresa and Mark Wright Jr. Right. Just celebrated Martin Luther king day. Those are personal brands and that, Nope, we did not have social media then, but their message spread. And so I think that’s really important.
It’s just someone who is recognizable. Someone I can identify as this is who they are, and this is what they’re known for. So that tells us we have two opportunities to build our personal brands. There is an online component, right? The digital component, but there’s also an equally important, which is what is your offline efforts.
And those are what I don’t find most people talking about today is everyone gets sucked into how do I build my online audience? How do I build my platform? How do I grow? My followers downloads subscribers? And it’s like, yes, look, there’s this other part of life, which is human to human, offline connection.
Interaction has equal weight and value. So in addition to doing all these things, what are we also doing to be involved in the local nonprofits or your local church or your, whatever it is, right? Sponsor a tee-ball team, be the whatever right. Show. But go to networking meetings, be known and be known for what you want to be known for.
And that was a really interesting fact that was supported by these next two high-level things that I think are really important for anyone who is in business today to really ground yourself in this is that 74% of Americans. Yeah. That’s three fourths of Americans say that they are more likely to trust you.
If you have an established personal brand. Now that’s an overwhelming statistic there. But what that really is saying is that if you have an established personal brand, in other words, I know who you are. I know what you believe. I am more likely to trust you, right? So ultimately if you’re, I think what you’re saying is if you align with the persons, what their messages, if you align with their beliefs, if you align with ultimately what they’re communicating.
More likely to engage by et cetera with them. Is that ultimately what you’re saying? Ultimately, and I would say don’t align with them. Like there are people I don’t value wise align with. Right. But I would trust them in some specific arenas, even though like, and I won’t mention any names, but it’s like, there are some people I’m like you, do you not down with that, right.
Segments of what you talk about, where I’m at. Yes. I’ll take that tip. Great. Aha. But again, there’s three simple things that we can do to build trust. One is people have to be able to see you. You have to be present. Yeah. You’re not going to be willing to put yourself out there. People cannot find you and simply put, you cannot do business with you.
If people don’t know about you, right. This whole idea of build it and they will come. No,
not works. Right? So step one, people have to be able to see you. Step two, they have to be able to get to know you and not just about your service and your products and your content and ideas. They want to know you. What do you eat? Where do you go? What do you do on the weekends? What are you reading? What do you not like?
Like they want to know you and then three, they need to be able to learn from you. Right? There is an expectation in the marketplace right now. That has shifted two years ago. The expectation was I give you my money. You give me product services, information, whatever it is right today, the expectation is different.
Today is no. You give me the information for free, and I will decide if it’s good enough for me to give you my money, right? That is a major shift in the economic marketplace, which makes a personal brand ever increasingly more important because it allows people to see you get to know you learn from you best trust you way before you ever ask them for money.
Yeah. Yeah. I want to know that you’re going to provide value even before I give you my money. Right. There’s no brand and conduit of expediting that trust factor. Right? Well, and it’s interesting because I remember in blogging, one of the things that struck me the most is this concept of. Giving tons of information for free and how it ultimately did translate in people then wanting to.
Buy from you. So the best way I can give the example of exactly what you’re saying is like the fitness nutrition program that I run. When I first started, I was like, well, I need to kind of protect some of my knowledge and what I know, because if I teach it all for free, then like who’s going to do my course.
And what I learned really quickly is that why don’t you guys talk about this? People pay for organization and application, not necessarily information. What I also found though, and kind of what I alluded to earlier is the accountability. It’s that personal connection, which you’ve also kind of highlighted the idea of relationship is it’s amazing.
My clients to learn a ton, they see results. They certainly benefit from the added information, but ultimately it is the organization, the application, and then the accountability for them being able to walk through something with somebody that they trust, even if they know it, they still need those extra measures and they’re willing to.
Pay for that. Um, so I have seen that in my own experience already. So I think that’s incredibly insightful. Um, talk to me a little bit here quickly about the brand builders group process, because ultimately what your company does is helps people not only understand personal branding, but leverage all the information from this research study, which there will be a link on the show notes@hammersandhugs.com that you can download.
So for anyone that is a blogger or a small business owner, a, I mean, really you name it. You have a business that you want to grow. You need to download the study so that you can apply the information to what you’re doing, but how does the brand builders group help people to ultimately build and monetize their business?
So real quickly, tell me how the brand builders group, your company ultimately helps people build and monetize that personal brand. Um, kind of create the essential aspects that they need in order to experience success as a personal brand. What does brand builders group do? Yeah, so I would say at the end of the day, uh, the people we serve are the people who want to become more well known, right?
And by coming more well-known you become more trusted and the more trusted you become, right? The easier it is to do business, right? So that’s who we’re serving are the people who want to become more well known for whatever it is that they do now. Ultimately, we’re a strategy. Right. So we believe that there is a process to what you should be doing.
And there is an order to it. And we believe that because we did things out of order or years. All right. And so we were really fortunate to launch a New York times bestselling book. We had a top 100 podcasts. We’ve built eight figure consulting businesses, seven figure speaking businesses, right? This is our fourth seven-figure business brand builders groups is.
And here’s what, here’s what we know to be true when we are not people peach, what we do from learning from others, we teach from firsthand experience. And so we’re very convicted that there is an order and which things must go. So it saves you time and money. And that order goes a little bit like this step one is we help you discover what problem you saw.
Step two. What is the unique way in which you solve that problem? I E your message. Step three. Who do you want to solve it for? And number four, how do you want to make money solving it? Those are the four crucial steps that we take everyone through and our process in the very beginning. Um, and you know, and here’s what I would say too.
It’s like, I think the part where people get most hung up is step four is how do I make money doing it? And that is tricky because there are so many different ways. And we always tell people it’s focused on what you’re doing right now, whatever it is you’re doing right now is what we want to help you explode.
It’s what we want to help you expedite. It’s the quickest path to cash. It’s the quickest path to becoming known for something, because you already are doing it. And so many people come in and I think that having a personal brand means they need to lots of podcasts or a new one, or they need to have a course, or they need to, they need to, and it’s like, Where did this come from?
Yeah. We’ll only need to do what you want to do. That’s the only thing you need to do. And so a lot of it is just helping people focus and declutter and actually create more traction where they already have momentum by getting super clear and super diligent and super focused on the problem, the message, the audience, and your very current, what it is right now that is making you the most money that you also love doing now.
Perhaps there’s not anything there and you’re going, I’m starting from scratch. Right. I left my nine to five or I’ve sold my business or I just retired and, you know, chapter two, what are we going to do? And that’s a different story, right? That’s different, but that’s not most people. And I think that is where most people get caught up.
And so we would call that that’s the core of what we say is branding. So we brand, then once you have your foundation, then you go to market. Right. Most people want to build their personal brand. I E they want a website, right? They want pretty social media. Graphics is not a brand. That’s not a personal brand.
That’s the advertising of your brand. Right. So you’ve got to have the branding part done. Then we help you figure out what’s the marketing. Then you also need to make sure that you have systems for selling, and then you need to have processes for scaling. So we walk people through those four processes.
How do you go through branding, then marketing, then selling then scaling. And so we cover what we tell people is it’s from idea to eight figure entrepreneur, because a personal brand is synonymous with a business. I, personal brand is a business, so it’s gotta be treated like one. So we cover everything from what problem do you solve to what colors do you like?
How am I going to hire people, recruit, set up finances, learn tax strategy and all the things in between. So, and marketing ad management, the list goes on for those of you who like the details like me, the practical, um, piece of it. So it’s a four-phase program and those phases happen for. At different speeds for different people.
Like I came into it and there are certain parts of it because I had a blog set up that I was able to kind of skip through and kind of like what Aja said. I think what makes your program so unique is the branding piece. Phase one is literally the, I mean, it is like the capstone, ironically, even though it’s the very first one, it is what really sets you up for success.
And I think it’s the piece that most people don’t know how to do on their own. I think we’re actually better at the DIY, like setting up a blog, the maybe the more hands-on stuff, cause we can Google it, but there is no replacement for. That first section of finding your brand DNA understanding and really diving into it, you will think about yourself in a way you never have.
You will think about your skills in a way that you have never even thought about you’ll actually come out feeling really amazing because you’ll realize that you are way more incredible than you gave yourself credit for just by going through phase one. So it’s a four phase process. You go through it at different speeds.
Um, they have opportunities to have one-on-one coaching. It’s what especially makes your program successful. I think you have amazing coaches who walk you through it. There are couples that go through it together. There are bloggers, there’s small businesses that have a handful of employees already, but that four phase program.
And then I think there’s like four, three or four sections under each. There are all kinds of opportunities to do it online. There’s courses that you go through. So you can do it all on your own. If you want to with your coach or there’s live events that you can attend, they’re incredibly well done.
They’re very organized. You will not regret doing them some conferences. You’re like, I think I took about 20% out of that. This one, your brain will hurt and it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. They’re very organized. They make great use of your time. There will also be a link to sign up for you guys.
Offer free one hour strategy call. Yes. A strategy call alone is worth it. So to say, and it’s like, we literally, we believe in what we do. It’s like, we want people to try it before we ask them to buy it. We want you to fall in love with it. We want you to want it. So, um, at the very least, uh, like we’re going no, like we, we feel confident that we know what we’re doing and we can help.
Then we’re willing to give it away for free to a limit, to a limit, to a limit. There has to be a limit somewhere. Um, but yeah, even the first one hour strategy call I had her name was Amy. I remember even after the one hour call being like, well, that was worth it just for the one hour free. She gave me great pieces of advice.
Now I’m being the very fast decision maker that I am. I signed up right after I got off the call with her and signed the contract. I realized that I’m the minority of people. You might need to process it a little bit more, but they do such a great job. They offer so many things that you can ease your way into it for you, normal people out there that don’t jump in head first.
Like I tend to do, um, AGA where can people find you other than brand builders, group.com and certainly the website information we will have on the blog, but where else can people find. Yeah. If you want to connect with me and stay in touch and just stay involved in my day to day every life as a mom, wife believer, CEO, um, check me out on Instagram.
Right? I post a lot. I will fill up your feed boy though. There’s little cuties on there. I’m Rory’s acuity too. He’s just not quite as short as her other two men, small, medium, and large size. He’s closed more often too, too. Well, I guess not if he’s in a sauna every morning, but my handle there is AIJ underscore Vaden.
Um, but if you want to learn more practical skills with personal branding, marketing, entrepreneurship, um, then you can check me out on LinkedIn. AIJ Vaden. That’s where I post most of my, you know, tactical content. Whereas every day human experience, you’re going to find me on Instagram. Love it, it was such an honor to have you here.
I continue to pray. God’s richest blessing over your home. You and Rory. You’re absolutely making a difference in so many people’s lives. You’re leaving a legacy. Your boys will be very proud. They don’t probably know what they have yet, but they’re very blessed. Generous. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us for this episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast.
It is my honor to be here with you. I am so grateful for each and every one of you. If you were watching on YouTube, be sure to click the subscribe button below. So you don’t miss a show and leave a comment with your thoughts from today’s episode below. If you are listening via your preferred podcasting platform, would you help keep us on the air by rating our show and leaving an honest review of your thoughts from today in case you haven’t heard it lately, your story matters and you are loved.
This is your host on a former, and I will see you here next time on the imperfectly empowered podcast.

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