Ahna Hendrix – There is a lot of creativity that goes into everything that Ahna leaves her mark on. Since I have known her, I have been intrigued by her zest for life and how she applies that to business.
I feel that there is a lot that we can learn from Ahna’s approach to Social Media and her approach to business as a whole. I wanted to find out more about her and her dreams, hopes and goals for her future.
Digital Strategist. Designer. Content Creator. Offering Small Businesses A Single Solution.
Facebook: Ahna Hendrix
Ahna Hendrix – Digital Strategist. Designer. Content Creator
1. Tell me a bit about Ahna Hendrix.
I own an international social media marketing and web/print design business that caters to the world of small businesses.
My heritage hails from a family of entrepreneurs, and watching the ins and outs of the business world had me ready to jump in from an early age. At 10, I begged my parents to let me wait tables after seeing the waitresses carrying around wads of cash. When that didn’t work, I sold my famed chocolate chip cookies in their Mexican restaurant and spent the money on office supplies. I have an obsession with pens and paper. My Dad said I was a kid for about a week.
Growing up, I was too curious for school and developed a love of traveling while skipping class. Suffice it to say that a lifetime of unconventional choices eventually led me to starting my own business. I’ve never struggled or worked so hard for anything, but I’ve also never been so fulfilled with what I do every day. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, but I am thankful that it’s possible for people like me.
On a personal level, I love to read, go salsa dancing, spend time with family and friends, cook, hang out with my dog, be outside, play with plants, drink wine and write. I’m an extrovert as much as an introvert and you’ll either find me full of energy or in need of a recharge. I absolutely love what I do and look forward to Mondays. Also, I am a notorious goofball – life can’t be fun if you aren’t laughing as much as possible. I live each day as best as I can.
2. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
My days start early and end early – to the best of my ability. I love to get up early and need morning time before I’m ready for public consumption. But I’m usually at my computer no later than 9am, often much earlier, and work until 6 or 7. I try to walk away from my computer by 8 or I have trouble sleeping and wake up with computer brain. Insomnia is an ever-present entity.
Some days I work really hard and barely sleep, others I take it easy and sleep a lot. The cool part of having my own biz is that I make my schedule, but the toughest part of having a biz is I have to keep to a self-imposed schedule.
Regardless, I get done whatever I have on the books for that day, and if there’s energy left, I keep going. There’s a never-ending amount of work as an entrepreneur and I am learning balance. Without it, I get burned out and then work isn’t as fun. Maybe it sounds crazy, but I expect my work to be enjoyable – at least most of the time 😉
3. What services do you provide to prospective clients, especially to small businesses or businesses just starting out?
I offer small businesses social media marketing, online business growth consulting, web/print design work and content creation services. First and foremost, I am a writer, but my skill set greatly expanded during college where I majored in multimedia. I learned to design and develop websites, originate graphic designs and it was during my college years that I began a life consumed with social media.
My greatest strength is being able to assess a business’s online presence and determine what it will need to take to get them to the next level. If the client needs a service I do not specialize in, then I know a number of professionals I feel comfortable recommending clients to. I have no problem saying I can’t do something because it’s important to have integrity. Honesty always wins out and I look like a hero because I give them the best solution.
4. How important or effective do you think Social Media can be in brand promotion?
I think social media is still highly underrated, but that underestimation won’t last much longer. Our world is changing so quickly and businesses that do not have a social media presence are going to begin falling below the competition that does, regardless of the quality of the products, services, etc. Consumers are online and that’s where they want to be contacted. Social media marketing is extremely important. But I also believe that a marketing strategy that only involves social media isn’t enough. It works best in conjunction with email marketing and blogging.
In that, I prefer to approach social media campaigns from the perspective of the consumer. Ask yourself, “What is it going to take for a brand to build trust with you? What must a brand do to entice you to buy their product or service?” Conducting social media solely from a business angle is a waste of time. Social media strategists are paid to get inside the mind of the consumer and find what makes them tick, but won’t tick them off.
5. I see many Twitter accounts with thousands of followers, but few of them get actual follower interaction. Do you think that this is a result of fake follower accounts (the ones people can buy) or simply because Twitter has so much noise that followers tend to miss the updates.
It could be many things. I do think that some accounts still buy fake followers, but I also know there are many ways to gain followers quickly. It’s unfortunate to see how many big brands and small businesses don’t take the time to invest in their Twitter followers, but that’s because they are focused elsewhere.
In my personal business, I’ve gained more business leads and clients from Twitter than any social network. I absolutely LOVE Twitter! I think it’s one of the most underestimated social networks, but it’s also one of the hardest to understand. And the businesses who aren’t doing it well do not have a person who understands or the time to understand.
6. Facebook is a tour de force in the Social Media arena. There is no denying that. How can businesses leverage Facebook successfully?
There are thousands of ways to leverage Facebook depending on the biz size, industry, etc. With Facebook marketing, a strategist can really play up the visual content with photos, videos and humorous memes. Humor is a powerful tool in Facebook.
There’s no one sure way to market to Facebook users that will work for every brand because it’s the most fickle audience. They’ve seen the ads, they know the routine and there’s going to have to be some unique dazzle to get their attention. Again, it just takes time and trial and error.
7. Many times I notice businesses creating personal Facebook accounts instead of a Facebook page. Do you think that could create a negative perception of the company (i.e. online presence and perception on Social Media is important for business)?
According to Facebook, it’s illegal, and gives Facebook the power to remove the account without alerting the owner. If you have a business, you need a Page, not a Personal account. I used to think that Personal accounts had more power than Pages, but I see the opposite now. Bottom line, if a business has a personal account, they’d better switch it fast. I alert businesses when I see that because they may not know. But no one wants to have all their work erased simply because they weren’t following the rules.
8. Starting your own business is no small undertaking. What have been some of the challenges you have had to face?
Haha, what challenge haven’t I faced? From day one it’s been a challenge. I was very fortunate in that I didn’t have many bills or a hefty lifestyle to accommodate, but there were still financial crunches. The first six months were the most broke months of my entire life, and every time I’d get to a breaking point and be ready to go get a job, another door would open. I told myself from the beginning that I would get a part-time job if I needed to. But I also felt that starting my own business was what God led me to do, so I knew He would provide, and He always did.
Growing a client list was tough. I had no idea how, so I went at it from every angle. I started looking up businesses in the area and finding out who needed social media services. I’d call them, but didn’t think that was personal enough, so I started showing up and getting to know business owners. All of it was futile, but truthfully I didn’t do it for long enough. My first client came from Twitter. We’d known each other for over a year and he needed someone to populate his site with social media blogs. So I started writing. And then I was contacted by a restaurant owner I knew who needed his website redesigned. And then I had a Japanese importer answer an ad I put in Craigslist about a website redesign. Once I worked with a few people, the referrals blew up. I have a 100% referral rate, and intend on keeping it that way.
I’m also learning to navigate the biz world as a woman and setting boundaries for myself and the people I work with. Even though I grew up in business and watched my mother deal with being in a man’s world – I didn’t realize it would impact me as much as it has. I’m naturally naive and friendly because I enjoy people and relationships. But I’ve had to learn to decipher interest in my work and interest in me, and it’s not always obvious. It’s an issue that isn’t discussed too often in relation to online work, but I know from talking with other women in the field that we deal with it often.
But all these challenges are more than worth the frustration. I expect problems without being cynical and hope to have the wisdom to deal with them as they become present. It’s the nature of life – nothing is perfect or easy.
9. You initially started working for a company when you came to New York. What motivated you to go out on your own?
I was hired at a marketing agency in NJ as an interactive designer, but was fired for intimidating the marketing staff. It never feels good to hear that you aren’t a good fit, but the truth is that I wasn’t. I’m not an easy employee because I grew up in business and respect efficiency. Besides, taking orders as a designer drove me crazy. I wanted to work directly with clients, be involved in the market strategizing process and learn the ins and out of the marketing agency. But like most agencies, I was given a role and expected to fill it. But it was a blessing in disguise because I decided to go ahead and do all those things on my own and for my own business.
I always knew that I would eventually work for myself, but didn’t expect it to be so early. And it’s been quite the journey so far. Although I disappoint myself daily, I’ve never let myself down when it comes to work. And I will do whatever is necessary to succeed.
10. You have some big changes in your business coming up. Tell us about those.
The main reason I decided to start my business was so that I could have the freedom to travel and work. I dreamed of an international company that worked with multiple cultures and served the small businesses of the world. I’ve always loved traveling, learning about other cultures and international business fascinates me. Recently, I made the realization that it is time to begin making huge strides in that direction and am taking my business to Vietnam in December. I will continue working with my current clients and conducting business as usual, but have business interests in Asia and will be meeting with several businesses. My plan is to spend time getting to know the Asian business culture as I travel around it before moving on to India and eventually Europe.
I want to teach social media classes in areas where I stay for extended periods of time and study and learn as much as I can about the various business cultures and how they are/are not utilizing social media. Basically I want to learn everything I can about what is going on in our world relating to social media and build business relationships as I go. The time has come for me to begin expanding my business as well, and that will begin while I am on the road. I will be blogging and sharing these thoughts as I go on my website.
These are very exciting times for my business and I’m extremely grateful the hard work is bringing me closer to my dreams. But it is just the beginning. Also, I will keep my home bases in NYC and NC for the time being.
11. You co-founded a nonprofit named, Share 4 Kids Foundation, tell me more about it.
I co-founded Share4Kids with a marketing friend of mine, Kevin Kelly. Last December, he shared a few photos of terminally ill children on his Facebook account asking people to send cards or pictures for Christmas. After seeing his posts I got the idea to turn it into a full blown foundation that utilized the sharing power of social media. We both use online audiences everyday to build up brands, so why not do it for these children. It’s been a beautiful experience thus far, but we have far to go. Still, the online world has been very kind and we have thousands of people wanting to get involved in anyway they can. It’s truly a blessing to do something for others.
12. What does the Share 4 Kids Foundation aim to achieve within the next year (the goal it has set for itself)?
Our next year will be focused on launching fundraising campaigns and making growth as an organization a priority. We are looking to bring on other social media strategists with large audiences as S4K ambassadors and begin working with sponsors. We’ll also be redesigning the website, developing a board, implementing processes, etc. It’s a ton of work, but very exciting.
13. What are some of the strategies you are employing to create awareness?
We honestly haven’t been doing much. We began the Foundation with a Facebook and Twitter account and they are blowing up quickly. Developing a nonprofit is not easy business, but in the interim we’ve been building a strong brand online and sponsoring children’s wishes on a small level.
14. The Facebook page already has 6,500+ likes and 70,000+ Twitter followers. The online community seems very involved. How involved is the offline community and do you think that it is easier for people to get involved online?
I do think it’s easier to access the online community. The coolest part about Share4Kids is that literally everyone can be a part of granting a child’s wish because the foundation depends on the sharing power of social media. This means that someone who may not be able to donate can share the wish and have just as great if not a greater impact on helping a child. We’re doing our best to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible as we grow. But without the online sharing support, Share4Kids won’t continue.
In terms of an offline audience, we aren’t as focused on them because of the nature of S4K. But that will absolutely change as we begin bringing in funding and start taking the wish-granting to a whole new level. We want to be able to meet these children in person, offer the parents help with bills, grant wishes on a higher level, and get more involved in their lives. Once that begins happening, our brand will begin spreading offline as well.
15. How do you balance the work you do for Share 4 Kids with your business? Time management is probably essential?
Time management is essential no matter what, but it especially is when there are many responsibilities. I am extremely fortunate when it comes to Share4Kids because I teamed up with someone who goes overboard on being involved. Kevin really does an amazing job with our social media sites and is involved in every aspect of the foundation’s growth. Handling my business in correlation to S4K has not become tough yet, but as we grow more time will need to be given. However, we both knew that when we begun.
My philosophy is one day at a time. I plan for the future, but I can’t give too much thought or it becomes overwhelming.
16. How can people get involved with Share 4 Kids?
People can get involved with Share4Kids through our Facebook or Twitter accounts. Our children’s wishes are shared often on both sites and anyone can fulfill a wish or share it with their community. We haven’t begun taking donations yet, but will launch our first fundraising campaign sometime this year. We’ve had an overwhelming amount of people contact us about donating, but we want to make sure everything is in place before that occurs.