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Worth the Risk

Authenticity leads to better stories…and better business

Jen Jones, founder of New Love City, a yoga studio in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, isn’t afraid.

“I don’t know whether I’m cut out to be a business owner, but I’m certainly down to take a risk,” she said. “And I’m stubborn as all get-out.”

Her risk-taking approach is what led her to build her business in an unconventional way. She could have followed a tried-and-true pay of paying teachers less and using discounts, promotions and Groupons to get people in the door, but that didn’t feel right to her.

“I would have made a profit sooner,” she admitted. “But instead we stuck the course and focused on the slow steady growth in a way that felt organic and right.”

Jones wanted her business to be a reflection of her and her values. She was playing the long game and wanted her business to be built on a small community of loyal students. She believed if she did things right, remained true to her values (and the values of her community), and communicated her authenticity, her business would grow steadily.

So she shunned short-term sales gimmicks designed to get new people in the door. More importantly, she paid her teachers well – two- to three-times the usual rate – and trusted them to lead classes the way they wanted to. Students would then gravitate to the teachers who spoke to them.

And, she tells her story. Jones has adopted a position of being open and transparent with her business. She shares the strategies and numbers behind what she’s doing. “I thought that I was already doing this thing. I might as well share what I'm up to with the community so that people could see what it takes to start a business,” she said.

As a result, things have gone just as predicted for Jones. New Love City has been profitable since its ninth month, despite a higher payroll and accessible pricing. Most importantly, her loyal base of students is growing, steadily and organically.

Wonderful Place to Be

For a lot of companies – and a lot of people – being that real and transparent is a scary thing. But it’s really the only way to go.

First, it makes it much easier to tell your stories. Jones said that if she didn’t take that approach, it would have been much harder for her to tell her story and promote her business.

She knows this from her previous career in advertising. “The upside to being authentic is that is what people are looking for,” she said. “I worked out a million ad campaigns over my career and there's nothing worse than trying to like create a bogus story and sell it to people who don't care about it.

“But I think that being able to communicate something that is real and relevant and feels right is a wonderful place to be.”

Being able to share her story, and have it resonate so clearly with her community, is a big part of what’s allowed her business to grow a solid foundation of customers. Being authentic and real has allowed her to build a business that’s sustainable and solid, and connects with customers.

It may feel risky and scary, but it’s really the only way to go. It’s far riskier to build your business on something as illusory as sales gimmicks and inauthentic claims, as you’re attracting a clientele that largely isn’t a fit for you, and won’t hesitate to leave you when they find what is a fit.

Jones’ approach is very similar to a concept that Seth Godin is putting forth in his latest book, “This is Marketing.”

It’s the idea that we, as businesses and marketers, and even as communicators and storytellers, should be going after the smallest possible audience that we need to make our businesses viable. By focusing on such a small group, we make ourselves indispensable to those people. We make ourselves loved by those people. And then our audience, our customer base, our community grows.

Gradually. Organically. Authentically.

And that growth is created by the stories we tell about our customers. And the stories our customers tell about us.

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