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Making the ask with Elizabeth Blege

Elizabeth Biege

So good to catch up with you, Elizabeth. Could you introduce yourself and tell us who you are and what you do? 

My name is Elizabeth Blege. Day to day I work as a brand and marketing strategist, which in short means someone comes to me with a branding or marketing problem and says, I don’t get this. I don’t know how to do this. And I find a solution to that problem.

On top of that, I also am in the process of co-founding a business called Efitter, which is a technological solution – that will help make the shopping experience super slick for the modern woman by targeting young women who are in their late 20s years – the millennial category – so late 20s, and 30s, who just want to make sure that they get their perfect fit online.

How did you find yourself working in marketing and also being self-employed? 

It was really random, almost an unplanned journey. I probably wouldn’t recommend going this direct route.

But hey, it kind of worked out for me. Back in the tail end of last summer, so summer 2019, I knew that I needed to change in terms of my day job. I just wasn’t really interested in it anymore.

I was working at a startup, where my role was more or less to consult for businesses on their customer acquisition. And I just wasn’t really into it anymore. There were a lot of growing pains.

So I made a decision that I was going to quit this job but before that happened, I started consulting for a friend of mine on the side and helping her market her podcast. Before we knew it, we had a formalised meeting set up with action points, and I was effectively a marketing strategist.

So I thought to myself, okay, you’re doing this thing already, you might as well see if it’s something that you can do in the long term.

And, again, I wouldn’t really recommend doing that when you quit a job because it’s very difficult, and if I were to do it again, I would have liked to have some kind of client base beforehand. 

Once I quit my job, I spent the first four months experimenting with different ways to get clients on board. It varied between going to events, speaking at events, sending cold emails, reaching out to existing connections, which all worked to varying degrees of success.

Then COVID-19 hit and that threw everything out the window. This did allow me to take a step back and think, okay, what am I doing now? What’s my strategy? Is it working? What do I need to do to make my messaging and brand a lot clearer? 

So I did that work. I had to think about the way I was targeting people, how to get people to buy into my emails and offerings etc: When I was running my previous business, I read all the business books, I was actually on a kind of accelerator of sorts for business people for a year.

I learnt a lot about the terminology and the technique, and I learnt about the importance of pivoting.

So it meant that when I started doing this, I couldn’t be too wedded to what I was doing, as there were going to be some things that I was going to have to let go of and rework in order to get people to pay for your product. 

I’d love to use that to link into Efitter. What is Efitter and where did that idea come from?

Efitter is something that’s built into a browser that will generate your size based on your previous purchases. We have a podcast called The Fit which you can check out on wherever platform you listen to your podcasts on. 

The story of how it came to be makes me really believe in fate and being at the right place at the right time.

To start to understand why I’m involved with Efitter, we have to go back and talk about my first business. My first business is something that I came up with when I was in university. It was called Mod to Measure and it was an African fashion – not lines – but a website where you could design your own garments.

The idea was to have an outfit that would perfectly represent you, meaning the perfect, fit and personalised. I realised soon after launching that I was trying to do too much in terms of fitting too many niches. My two main niches were African clothing and also it being the perfect fit.

In this country, the market for African clothing is not huge, and only 3% of this country identify as black. So the business model was very specific to begin with. Then on top of that, I was trying to get the perfect fit.

What I realised was that if people wanted the perfect fit, they didn’t necessarily want African clothing and if they wanted African clothing, they didn’t necessarily want to pay the premium for getting a bespoke tailored fit.

So we decided to scrap the fit element and just focus on making good quality pieces. Not long after I started working for myself as a brand marketing strategist, because it was, in short, Mod to Measure was a lot more work. 

Fast forward to Efitter – and that’s a funny story. Someone I knew from sixth form started posting some really interesting findings about what’s going on in the world of tech and fashion on her Instagram page.

I would often call her and offer insight into some of the questions she was asking because at the time, I was working in the tech industry.

She then messaged me and said, “I’m going to start a podcast – are you interested?” and initially I said no because i’ve never been a person to do things like podcasts, videos – anything that puts myself out there is just very much outside of my comfort zone. But then I met up with her and we had a chat.

I wanted to know more about Efitter as a brand and what she imagined it would be. It sounded exciting and something I wanted to be a part of and then before we knew it, we’re working on the business together.

Do you think – as entrepreneurs – were allowed to have comfort zones? 

No. If we think about the spectrum of introversion and extraversion, I land right in the middle.

Some days I’m super extroverted, I need to be working the room. And other days, it’s just a lot of energy. Sometimes I need to sit in the room by myself and walk through things on my own without the aid of other people.

And I guess, to some degree, being comfortable being in front of a microphone is probably more on the extroversion spectrum but it’s necessary in order for the business to grow.  So I think as time goes on, I am still well within my comfort zone, but to some degree it’s expanding.

As a small business owner, you don’t have the luxury of saying, Okay, I’m not comfortable doing this, I’m not going to do it, because otherwise the things that need to get done just won’t get done.

How do you see your partnership?

I think it was the third podcast episode which was in celebration of International Women’s Day where we spoke a lot about our business model, and also what it’s like to work together as female co-founders.

We were talking about how it’s like being married and raising a child, where sometimes you’re gonna have to do things that you don’t really want to do. But it’s the best thing for your child. For example, you may have to ground them because they’ve done something wrong.

Or you may have to stay up that little bit extra and help them with a particularly difficult part of their homework. It’s not something you want to do, but it’s something you have to do. And it’s necessary for the growth of your business.

What are you working on now? Has the pandemic affected your plan?

In the UK, we weren’t really locked down until around the last week of March and I remember I went to an event right at the beginning of March and it was in celebration of International Women’s Day.

I remember there was one particular speaker, Barbara Armstrong, who spoke about her experience as being a successful CEO and how she would go to these events and speak about her experience but at the same time feel like there was always something seriously missing.

The idea of success didn’t match what society’s ideal success was. To society, she was an overwhelming success, but to her, she didn’t feel like she was doing what she should be doing.

So she sat down one day and reflected on what success meant to her and decided to pivot her career, and start her own business. Barbara’s focus shifted to focusing on doing what made her happy rather than making x billion amount for a company she wasn’t 100% invested in. 

At that point in time, I was feeling really low because a particular partnership had fallen through which I had worked really hard on. So I was in the mindset of, okay, what now? Do I need to still be working for myself? Can I quit? Should I quit?

So after her talk, I pulled Barbara aside, and told her that I felt like I was at this Crossroads and she just gave it to me! She said she ran her own business, and had done for years but that hadn’t ever stopped her from taking additional actual paying jobs, salary jobs when needed. 

And it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed and it doesn’t mean that you’re quitting or anything. It means that you’re being smart and doing what needs to be done. 

So I started to brainstorm the kind of work I wanted to be doing and what would be the most valuable thing to do for me.

Then the following week, everything started to crumble and we went into lockdown and it was at this point where I knew this was not going to be good, because we’re not going to pay for a consultant at this point to help with marketing and branding. 

My focus then shifted to continuing to produce content, which is something I like to do on my Instagram, and just make a conscious effort to stay relevant.

So, at the moment, that’s where I am at. I am definitely looking at getting back into full time work and I know what I want to do. And I know that it has to be tech focused, I know it has to be people focused.

Because if I’m going to build a business, I need to know the industry, but also know how to manage people. So I’m kind of in that process at the moment, which is very, very tough considering the timing.

One thing that I absolutely love about you is that you are unapologetically your full self online. Tell us a little about that.

If you follow my Instagram, in my header it says pole dancer and business babe.  Before I started working for myself, I did not use Instagram very often because I didn’t really like taking photos. I began posting pole dancing videos so I could visually track my progress. So to this day, I can scroll back, and see videos from 2016 and see the progress.

It got to a point where people were messaging me and saying “oh my gosh, it’s so great to see your progress. It’s so inspiring”. These videos have inspired people to start pole dancing, because they saw my videos. Then when I started to work for myself, I thought I needed to build a name for myself as a thought leader in my space.

So I used to do that a lot by taking pictures of myself when I went to events, but also starting discussion points about  starting a business, or marketing – or even things that are happening in that space now. So for example, I may write about the fact that you just need to take your time and you know, progress takes time.

I do that because people are interested and engaging. In doing that though, you feel the pressure and I felt like I had to update my Instagram a lot more. 

I also had the question right at the beginning of – do I combine my personal life with what I’m doing in business? In terms of my own business, it’s self titled, it’s my name, it’s me. If people are buying anything they’re buying into me and my personality.

I needed to be transparent, I needed to be honest. I think the reception has been positive, which is great. People have approached me for events from my Instagram, which is great. 

If I’m marketing myself as a branding and marketing strategist, targeting millennials and Gen Z, I have to be where those people are. So that’s how it ended up happening. Again, it’s something that’s a bit out of my comfort zone.

So you’ll notice that in recent weeks since COVID-19, I haven’t posted as often and I think the main reason for that is I’ve been a little bit uninspired because everything seems to be at a standstill. And I don’t want to spend my days talking about COVID-19 but it’s the reality we’re all in at the moment.  

Going back to Efitter, how are you working with your co-founder during a pandemic?

People are still interested in our product. They still want to talk about something other than COVID-19.

If you check out the Efitterapp  Instagram page, my co-founder has done a lot of work on that, but we have been collaborating when generating content which is time consuming and can sometimes be lonely when actually creating the content.

The people who create instagram content for a living, I have a huge amount of respect for them because it takes a lot of planning and energy. 

I’m very, very curious. LinkedIn, your thoughts? 

My thoughts about LinkedIn are a bit controversial for the space I’m in because people expect me to worship LinkedIn, I just find it very draining. I feel like sometimes people are very self indulgent.

We’ve touched on this earlier, which is the importance of being transparent about the journey that you’re going on. But there is transparency and being honest about it. Everyone has their own struggles and I don’t believe in comparing experiences, because what may be minor to you may be life changing to somebody else. 

I find LinkedIn quite difficult to promote what I’m doing, because it’s not the platform that my clients would be using.

There are an awful lot of people who are doing very similar things on LinkedIn and I’m yet to figure out what gains traction in terms of posts. 

What is the biggest lesson from your journey so far?

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned just in terms of entrepreneurship, and just in my career as well, has always been to ask. Ask for things because the worst thing that can happen is they say no.

That’s often something that we all struggle with, because we don’t want to be seen as too needy. We want to let people know that we can do it all by ourselves, but it’s just not practical. It’s just not realistic, we need help. And for me, in practice, what that has meant is asking for pay rises. Asking your friends to support where possible or if you really need something is also a lesson. 

Making the ask with Elizabeth Blege - Just Jaz

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