Podcast

Episode 56 – Jasmine Star, Photographer and Business Strategist

If you’ve ever used social media for anything other than sharing pictures of dogs and cute kids – this is your episode. This week, photographer and business strategist Jasmine Star takes us to social media school and teaches entrepreneurs how to build a brand, market it on social media, and create a life they love.

TRANSCRIPT

Jessica: Hey everyone, this is Jessica Honegger, founder of the socially conscious fashion brand Noonday Collection. And this is the Going Scared podcast where we cover all things, social impact, entrepreneurship, and courage. OK, today’s episode, if you have ever used social media, for anything other than posting a picture of your dog or your kid, this episode is for you. Jasmine Star blew my mind. You can feel the passion that she has to empower others through the microphone.

Jasmine is a photographer and business strategist, and she empowers entrepreneurs to build a brand, to market that on social media, and to create a life that they love. This conversation has stuck with me for weeks. Get out your pen and paper, give it a listen.

Jessica: Well, first of all, I wanna hear the 101 you gave me, sitting in the Target store. So Jasmine and I recently got to hang out in Austin, for the Austin Angels foster care project, which was so awesome. And that video you guys made, killed it.

Jasmine: Oh, thank you. It was exciting. And often times, I could say thank you, but the true talent belies with the video creator. We were just there doing our thing and having fun and blessing kids along the way. And to be surrounded by such a creative community in Austin is a gift.

Jessica: Wow, it was … that was awesome, that was so fun. And I was just so glad because I’ve been wanting to connect with you for years. I know your sister, Bianca, but we had never met before. So, it was just so great. So, before we get in, I wanna hear a little bit of your back story, but give us the 101 on what you do, because you do a lot of things.

Jasmine: Well, I am first and foremost a photographer and a business strategist. So, what does this mean, like, in layman’s terms? Well, I’ve created a business that empowers small business owners to show up on social media every single day. So, I create resources, photos, captions, and a social media marketing plan every month to ensure that people are out there talking about their business with confidence and pride and ease.

Jessica: That’s amazing. And you got to say that really succinctly, which is step number one to being a good business strategist is being able to say what you do. And I’m sure you took a long time to get that one down, but you nailed it. So, good job.

Jasmine: You have no idea. When we first started Social Curator, it took me about 12-and-a-half minutes. I was like, “And then, and carry the one times infinity, and it’s to Jupiter.” I mean, I was all over the place. So, thank you, girl, I step into that compliment.

Jessica: You did awesome. OK. So, now I wanna hear a little bit about your background, because I actually didn’t know your story. So, tell us about where you grew up, and then how you became a photographer and then pivoted that. Just start from the beginning.

 

Law School, Miracles, and a Digital Camera

 

So, my name is Jasmine Star, I hail from the most amazing parents, who are immigrants. I’m a first-generation Latina and a first-generation college student, and I was home-schooled for the vast majority of my life and earned a scholarship to college, and then later earned a scholarship to law school here in Los Angeles. So, we hail from very blue-collar parents. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad worked multiple jobs wherever he could. Anything from cutting trees, to being a cook, to working retail, selling other people’s kids shoes that he couldn’t afford to buy for his own.

So, I think that kind of shaped the perspective that I had when I went to college and I saw like literally a buffet of education and resources and backgrounds I was just unexposed to when you kind of are raised in the hood, you know?

And so, all of a sudden, I felt like the world was my oyster, and I applied it to law school. And for all intents and purposes it was just like a blessing because I was accepted to law school, but UCLA offered a full-ride scholarship. So, I went to school, it was pretty incredible. And to have the support of your community and your parents behind you is a really cool thing, but there was kind of on a subconscious level this pressure and this weight to be like … you know, you’re brown, you come from immigrant parents, you had very untraditional education, and you’re doing the thing. And so, I was like, “I’m doing the thing, guys, I’m doing the thing.” And in the back of my mind I’m like, “Oh my god, am I doing the thing?”

And so, I got to law school and I realized that it was really difficult for me to get acclimated, I just felt like I was a fish out of water in a very different pond. I felt like I was like the fish in outer space. So, it wasn’t very comfortable for me, but I was like, this is just what I have to do because I’m doing the thing, kind of?

And so, during the first year of law school, my mom unfortunately had a relapse of brain cancer, and it was just like this coming to. I was unhappy in law school, I was unhappy in life, and I was unhappy at the prospect of losing my mom. She had battled for about eight years, and so the doctors had said, your time had come.

And so, we … My dad is a pastor in East Los Angeles, California, and I think that where men see limitations, God sees possibilities for a miracle. And we didn’t know that at the time, and so I left school, I moved home, and I just said my mom has seen me grow up, and the only thing I want is for her to see me get married. And at this time, I had been dating my boyfriend nine years, and I said, “OK, we’re planning a wedding.”

I had my life in an Excel spreadsheet. I was like, in year 2.5 of law school I’m gonna get married, and that went out the window. I was like, “How soon can we get married?” And he proposed, and we planned a wedding in less than three months, and against all odds, my mother and my father walked me down the aisle. And that was the start of like a big shift in her life and in my life. And now I’m like, I don’t … Life is too short to do something you don’t wanna do, and God did in fact do a miracle, I was lucky enough to even hang out with my mom yesterday. So, life is beautiful.

Jessica: That is so amazing.

Jasmine: Yeah, it’s crazy when I talk about it. I think sometimes … I don’t wanna, like … I don’t want to … My pretend best friend, Brené Brown, she says that we have this thing called gold plated grid, where we can look back at really hard times in our life and then cover it. Like, see guys, it’s like a Hallmark Christmas special, but it’s kind of like, when you look back, you can’t help but see that something much bigger was at play for me, my mom, our family, our community, my dad’s church.

And so, as a testament to like goodness and grace, I was like, I can’t go back to law school. Like, I’m so unhappy there. And my husband asked me … my poor, brand new husband. It’s like we hadn’t even been home a week, and he’s like, “If you could do…” I mean, a week from our honeymoon. So, I mean, poor guy, doesn’t know what he’s getting into. He said, “If you could do one thing for the rest of your life, like, what would it be?” And I said, “I wanna be a photographer.”

Jessica: And had you dabbled with…

Jasmine: No. No. I didn’t even own a camera. I didn’t own a camera. Like…

Jessica: Where did that come from, though?

Jasmine: I think from a mix of ways. Like, my mom had always encouraged us to be creative. Like, I think naturally at home school moms do. They have like a penchant or a bent towards creativity. I knew I’d always like to create. I did have a very, very, very basic, simple, like, film camera in college, and I developed my own film, but it was kind of like a hobby, like a thing, like a joke, for all intents and purposes. Because when you’re a girl from the hood and your family immigrates to America, you’re not kind of like, “I wanna be an artist, guys.” Like, no. You say, this is my ticket, like, this is…

Jessica: You’re like, I got to be a lawyer, I got to be a doctor.

Jasmine: Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, absolutely. And so, it was just like not a thing. And when I said I wanted to be a photographer, I didn’t have a camera, and this was like a big, big, big shift away from traditional photography and into digital photography. And other people might hear that and say like, “Well, why don’t you just finish law school?” Or, “Why don’t you just get a job and see what happens? And if you can kind of pursue a side hustle…” which was fine, I think that’s what it turned into. But instead of saying all the reasons why it wouldn’t work, he just said, “I would rather see you fail at something you love than succeed at something you hate.” And so, he got me a very, very, simple, basic digital camera. I opened it up on January 1st 2006, and then by 2009, our photography studio was named … we were named some of the top photographers in the world.

“[My husband] got me a very, very, simple, basic digital camera. I opened it up on January 1st 2006, and then by 2009, our photography studio was named … we were named some of the top photographers in the world.” Jasmine Star on becoming a photographer and entrepreneur.

So, it was a pretty incredible feat. And if anybody noticed, I shifted from first-person to plural. Like, I said, “I was doing this,” and then I said, “our business.” He transitioned into the business, became my official business partner in 2008. And then by 2009 our just lives, careers, trajectory completely changed.

Jessica: And did you ever go back to school?

Jasmine: Girl, no, I ran from that like Sodom and Gomorrah. You don’t look back, you’ll turn into a pillar of salt. No, thank you. No.

Jessica: I love that, it reminds me… I just finished Becoming by Michelle Obama, and she really talks about a similar journey of being this box checker. Like, OK, you got to do this. And so, she got the law degree, and suddenly she hated it.

Jasmine: Oh, I mean, Michelle and Brené are our best friends, they just don’t know it yet. And I read that book and I just kept on saying, like, “Amen.” Like I just literally felt … Like, she’s much…I mean, she’s much cooler, better-looking, and educated and refined than I am, but I’m like, “You’re aspirational, girl, but I’m in your shadow, like, running right behind you.” So yeah, definitely, it resonated with me.

 

From Amateur to Professional and Beyond

 

Jessica: Wow. OK. So, how did that happen though? Because you just are like, then we got cameras, and then three years later we are top photographers in the entire world. So, can you tell me, like when you look back—and retrospect is such a gift—what were some of those key milestones that led to a successful photography career?

Jasmine: OK, so I love this question because it’s getting to the raw, real stuff. But before we get there, I wanna invite everybody to go on a journey that is not my own, but your own. So, as we hear the word photography, as we hear the word business, it’s really important that you insert yourself in the conversation, in whatever it is that you’re doing. Running for PTA, or starting Girl Scouts, or starting your own business, or whatever the case may be, the underlying trials that we all go through whenever we want to try something new apply and pertain to all of us.

So, let’s go back to 2006, I unbox this camera, and like quite literally the things I’m saying to myself are like, “Move over, Annie Leibovitz, I’m here,” you know? It’s like, Ansel Adams, no, no-no-no. Like, I’ve arrived…

Jessica: You haven’t seen Jasmine Star yet.

Jasmine: You haven’t seen it yet, let me just tell you. And so, I’m there, I don’t even know how to turn the camera on, because, oh, the battery is not in. So, I take a few photos and I realize I’m really terrible. Like, I’m not bad, I’m terrible. And I thought to myself, “This is not good. This is really bad.” And so, I do what any new business owner does. At the time I didn’t think it was a business, but I was like, I’m gonna pretend … I’m gonna act like I’m a business owner and I’m gonna speak it into existence. And so, I went to Google and I went to YouTube, and I spent day after day after day consuming information and then applying that information. Because I think during the advent, during this time, this is roughly 2006, 2007, and like the internet was just booming and there was this temptation to consume, consume, and consume, and then not do.

And I think what I realized early on was like, action is the antidote to fear. I heard that quote somewhere, it could be on a Christmas card, I’m not quite sure. So please don’t think it’s mine. But I will say that by taking action, it really forced me to put work behind my ideas and passions. And so, I would study, I would learn, and then I would go out and practice every single day with my camera.

“By taking action, it really forced me to put work behind my ideas and passions. And so, I would study, I would learn, and then I would go out and practice every single day with my camera.” Jasmine Star

Now, at the time I had a part-time job, I was working at my daddy’s church, and then whatever time I had on the offside, I was really just having a side hustle and trying to get people to look at me like a photographer and not like a law school dropout, or like that perpetual millennial who’s like, “And so I just started a new project, guys…”

Jessica: I mean, I had a full ride to UCLA but it wasn’t fulfilling.

Jasmine: Right. It just wasn’t my thing, guys, like, get with it. So, I think that that transitionary period … But I do think much like anything, like this is pretty much science, the more time you spend doing something, you naturally just get better. And so, I became inculcated and brainwashed in photography, and I just started shooting and doing everything I could. And about 12 months later I got my very first trusting client, and then the business just mushroomed from there. And I think it’s a testament to understanding that talent is overridden by passion and caring about other people. Because when I first started, I wasn’t all that good, but dang it, I was passionate, and I cared, and I promised to deliver on the thing that somebody had hired me to do. And that became a game changer in my business.

“About 12 months later I got my very first trusting client, and then the business just mushroomed from there. And I think it’s a testament to understanding that talent is overridden by passion and caring about other people. Because when I first started, I wasn’t all that good, but dang it, I was passionate, and I cared.” Jasmine Star

Jessica: So true. I mean, I’m just now … it’s crazy, but I am just now starting to appreciate that passion matters. And I know that’s crazy because I’m such a passionate person, but I think I’ve diminished … I have thought like, “Oh, smart, strategic people that can work pivot tables.” But I’m like, “No, I am so passionate. That has gotten me somewhere in life.” So, I love…

Jasmine: Oh, 1000%. A thousand percent

Jessica: OK, but when you were … There are so many different ways you can go as a photographer, were you thinking business, were you thinking profitability at this point, or were you like, “I am gonna just go be a photojournalist, and who cares about the money? I just think of art.”

 

Sharing an Abundance of Knowledge

 

Jasmine: Oh, no girl. I’m not … You know, it’s so funny because during my first year, being considered like a professional photographer, it was like 2007, kind of entered into the photography scene, and I think there was a lot of—hostility seems like too hostile of a word—but really, really this push away from this idea that you can be a profitable business owner and be creative. And so, I really bent in that way only because, as a daughter of immigrants, you understand that not everything is given to you, and the value of a dollar. We grew up really, really poor. We didn’t own a car, my dad took three buses to work, we took the bus to church, all of our clothes were donated, Christmas gifts were donated, Thanksgiving food was given to us. We were that family in the church.

And so, I think that as an adult, the way that I saw it was, it wasn’t money that was important, it was financial freedom. And so, within my first year of business, I was profitable, six-figure profitable. And that was so rare, specifically in the creative market, because they’re like, “Wait, what are you doing? You’re not even that good.” And I’m like, “I know, guys, I know. I know how to run a business, and I know how to be creative.”

And so, during this time, like between 2008, 2010, 2011, I really grew my business and started helping other photographers on how to grow their businesses. And then shortly thereafter with the advent of like social media around 2010, 2011, other business owners were like, “Do you think that what you’re teaching photographers would work in our business?” And I’m like, “Huh, let’s try.”

And so, I started consulting on the side. It wasn’t public-facing. And then started realizing that I had a gift for making businesses profitable once they understood how to market and talk about their businesses. And then pivoted my entire business in 2016 to take a big, big, big risk and say, I’m going to take a step away from accepting editorial work, client work, magazine work, and I’m going to say, I’m going to take a big risk and really double down on empowering small business owners to show up and work with their business.

“I started consulting on the side. It wasn’t public-facing. And then started realizing that I had a gift for making businesses profitable once they understood how to market and talk about their businesses. And then pivoted my entire business in 2016 to take a big, big, big risk and … double down on empowering small business owners to show up and work with their business.” Jasmine Star

Jessica: So powerful, and you do that in such a unique way which I wanna get to. But I’m still a little bit caught up in the first three years of your photography business. Because the internet wasn’t really around. I mean, it was around, the internet was around, but like Facebook was just kind of getting out there then, right? And…

Jasmine: No, Facebook wasn’t even made public to … If you weren’t in … At the time I wasn’t in college. And so, at the time, Facebook was only for college students. It didn’t become outward-facing until 2009. So, this is pre-Facebook.

Jessica: So, I’m wondering, what are those … Obviously you are really good with people, you love people, and were you immediately like, I’m gonna do writing photography, I’m gonna do family photography? How did you go about, like, hitting the pavement before digital media? And then I’m gonna ask how those hard skills have translated to digital. That’s kind of where I’m going with this.

Jasmine: I love this question, and I will say that the beauty about learning on the fly is that you get to make up the rules and understand that the rules we create are there to empower us to do things. So, for all intents and purposes, it was a really grassroots effort to get people to talk. And you say, “oh, did you know what … like niche of photography?” No, my niche of photography was, where-can-I-get-paid photography? So, that’s the straight-out truth.

Jessica: That’s a good niche.

Jasmine: But, when you first start, you have to be humble enough to take anything. And I was 100% … I literally shot everything. I shot horses, I shot … Oh, one time I did a trade for services. I couldn’t afford to get my logo designed, and so there was this guy at church, and he said he was a graphic designer. He’s like, “I want photos of me and my motorcycle,” and I was like, “Well, OK.” It was raining on the day of the photoshoot, I walked into his apartment, the motorcycle’s in his apartment, and I’m like, “This is really weird.” Like, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will continue to take photos.

And so, I basically did anything and everything, until I realized that the thing that I knew I could really jump into and get behind, was this idea of wedding photography. I said, “Huh.” Once I kind of built out, I felt a little bit confident, I knew it was like a big step, but I’m like, I think it’s my target demographic, and I do think that I can monetize on the outset at a higher profitability than any other division of photography at the time. So, that’s where we decided to move.

So, let’s get into, like, how does it be to be like a really terrible photographer and then all of a sudden get your first client? Number one, and I know it seems so basic, but it’s just the stinking truth. I actually left… I started blogging in 200 … right when I started my business. Like, I got my camera, January 1st 2006, I started to blog in February. And people had a very hard time understanding what a blog had to do with starting a photo business. And I was just there saying, “Listen, I come from East Los Angeles, my community…”

I didn’t even know a single person who had ever started a business in my life at the time that I said I wanted to start a business. And so, I literally went to the internet and I just started blogging my experience, and lo and behold, being real and being authentic and being raw on the internet was so new and different, that it ended up getting me clients. Because I was saying, “I got a new lens, I don’t know how to use it.” Or, “My mom is going through another round of chemo, and I’m taking pictures of what her recovery process looks like.” And people became connected to me as a person, in addition to who I was as a business owner.

 

Social Media for Small Businesses

 

What I can look back now and say, is that the human element, as you build a small business, is so wildly undervalued. If people understood that if you put all of your efforts in being and showcasing who you are, it will then translate into what you sell. And that hard communication of showing up online and sharing my story and sharing my journey, and being open about the process, that was in fact what landed me my third client ever. Like, she said … she was doing some, like, Google searching for chemotherapy treatments, and even though she wasn’t getting married, a girl in her workspace was getting married. And she’s like, “I just stumbled across this girl, she’s so … you know, she’s trying out, and if you have a budget, you should check her out. And then I … She asked me for my website, I didn’t have one. So, I literally just burned 60 photos to a CD and mailed the CD to her, and I was like, “Here are my photos.” I mean, it’s literally taking whatever you have and making it work.

“The human element, as you build a small business, is so wildly undervalued. If people understood that if you put all of your efforts in being and showcasing who you are, it will then translate into what you sell.” Jasmine Star

And I think that, again, when I look back at some of the things that were like, hard skills that parlay into digital skills, it’s like, well, number one, showing yourself authentically, and number two, doing whatever it stinking takes to get yourself where you wanna go.

Jessica: Well, and it’s funny because we just got our kids a PlayStation for Christmas for the first time, and they are playing soccer on PlayStation. And I have to remind them, “Guys, you’re not actually playing soccer. Like, you’re not actually getting exercise.” You know? Because it can feel that way. Like, a digital life can sometimes make you feel like you’re hustling, but you’re actually not hustling. You actually just posted a picture and you spent an hour maybe figuring out that post. But like, when is the last time you like called … got on the phone, like, went and actually showed up at a gig that you thought, “oh man, this is such a small gig, but like, I’m gonna do whatever it takes.”

And that’s where … I’m getting passionate because I feel like we’ve had that benefit of starting a business where we weren’t completely starting off with, oh, a business is about opening an Instagram account. And it’s like, man, we’ve got to grow and continue to foster these hard skills in these younger entrepreneurs, so that they can actually grow successful business, not just an online presence. Because you can have an online presence and behind the scenes have zero dollars to your name, you know?

Jasmine: 1000%. I mean, that’s more common than anybody ever knows.

Jessica: And so, I know that is what you’re passionate about too, and what led you to actually make this pivot, because you’re passionate about profitability. So, let’s talk a little bit about social media because I love what you said earlier about showing up, being yourself online, and that is a question I get a ton. You know, I lead this community of Ambassadors, so it’s saleswomen, it’s social entrepreneurs, over 2,000 of these women. And many of them start off because of the impact and they wanna make the income, but the social media bit is something that they’re a little wobbly on their feet trying to learn. And I get that question a lot, like, what’s that balance between content that’s about me and my kids, and then contents about my business? And I know that you teach on this. So, be our teacher a little bit now.

Jasmine: Great. And so please … number one, please interrupt me, please ask clarifying questions. I have a tendency to lily pad, or even sometimes like be like, oh you know? And you’re like, “wow, no, we don’t.” So please jump in at any given point in time.

And I think that I love this question because we can get so nuanced specifically with Noonday Ambassadors, and then other people who are in that direct sales kind of sphere. And understanding that many of us get caught up in, number one, what people are going to think.

Jessica: Oh, that’s number one, what holds us back.

Jasmine: That’s number one, absolutely. And so, I just feel like if we could all raise our hands and make the general commitment to say that what I am posting isn’t a reflection … or I’m not going to reflect and think that their opinions have any bearing on me. We cannot control what other people think about us, but we can control what we think about us and how we react to their opinions. So, before we even get into tactics, if that foundation isn’t in place, you’re already so far behind the curve, and you’re in your own head. So, once you move out of your head, then I have another great piece of information, it still ain’t about you.

Number two is that even when you get into something … sales, direct sales or even as a photographer and something that’s highly specific to what you provide, it isn’t about you, it is about how your service or product resonates with your end consumer. And the beauty about selling a singular thing, even if it’s let’s just say a widget, is that we, you, me, and 10 other people could all be selling an identical widget, but the beauty lies in understanding that who our end consumer is, is different. Now, if we can identify, number one, who our end consumer is, then we can get out of our own heads and think, this ain’t about me, this I how can I show up for this person in a way that resonates with him or her, and makes this widget feel like I am going to be their guide, their service person, and their coach, and using it and styling it and implementing it, whatever that then becomes. So, social media rule number one, get out of your own way and get out of your own head.

Social media tip number two is understand your target demographic first, far before you actually show up on social media. Because if your idea of showing up on social media is to just say, “OK, I’m here, I checked this box, see, it’s not working for me.” Well, it’s not going to work for you, you have to work for it. So, when you serve your audience with great and valuable content that teaches them, empowers them, entertains them, helps them escape, you’re already ahead of the curve.

Jessica: OK, I know people right now are gonna say, oh well, how do I go about identifying my target audience? So, let’s break that down, because it sounds so markety, but it’s super basic.

 

How to Know Your Audience

 

Jasmine: It’s super basic and super important. And at the end of the day, you as an independent entrepreneur, get to choose who that person is. So, in my mind when I say my target demographic or my dream customer, I literally dream up the person I wanna work with every single day. Or I dream up the person who I want to buy or invest in my product. So, let’s back it … like, let’s reverse-engineer. So, I hypothetically am a Noonday Ambassador, and I get to pick if I want to work with a 22-year-old millennial, I get to choose to work with a 31-year-old stay-at-home mom, I get to choose to work with a 65-year-old retiree who has expendable luxury income.

So first and foremost, we need to choose our market. Like, who do you every day just want to connect with and empower and make them feel really great about themselves? And once you identify, and I really mean this like specifically. I will give you 10 basic things to ask yourself about this person, so once you’re done listening, you actually have a clear plan of action. But we can go much deeper at a later point in time.

Number one, give this person a name. When you personalize who that person is, it’s like in your mind like, “Oh, I need to speak to Michelle.” “I need to speak to Janine.” “I need to speak to Jared.” OK, we give this person a name, we give them an age, we do not give them an age range. Because I often hear entrepreneurs say, “Well, I’m selling to women between 25 and 35.” And I’m like, “Girl, do you remember when you were 25? Do you remember when you were 35? Like, your life considerations, the decisions you were making were so wildly different, that to say you’re serving a 10-year difference demographic is a disservice to you.” So, I say pick an age.

Now, when you name this person, which you’re then identifying a gender and an age, I want you to list if they live in a big city or in a small town. Why? Because the content that they consume is a reflection of where they are. You will have a harder time selling big city dreams if you’re marketing to a 31-year-old living in the Midwest. Then you get even more granular. Does this person have a family? Are they married? Single? Children? How many? What are their children’s names? Then you identify where they live. So it’s like, not only are you in a big city, small town, give them a town so that all of a sudden when you’re creating content, you’re thinking about where they are in Ann Arbor, Michigan, you’re thinking about where they are in Charleston, North Carolina, you’re thinking about where they are in New York City. I specifically chose three very different cities because the content that you create for that person really should reflect where they are, not where you are or where you wanna be. When you are on a place of service, your social media concept and implementation wildly changes.

Then you wanna ask yourself, how do they spend the weekends? Where do they go on vacation? What stores do they shop at? What was their most recent YouTube video that they watched? How do they spend their free time? What are five accounts that they follow on Instagram? What are five accounts that they follow on Facebook? And then your objective is to go and follow those pages, follow those accounts. And ask yourself, why does Janine, why does Jared, why does Stephanie follow these accounts? And when you can internalize and give yourself answers, that Stephanie follows anthropology because she wants to go against the grain, she likes to wear independent high-end clothing, she wants to have fair trade goods that she wears.

So, when you can answer why somebody is following an account or shopping at a particular store, then you can say, “now I have like a framework for how I should be talking about the products that I am selling, or the vision for the business that I want.” So, we are literally identifying who this person is, where they live, how they spend their free time. Why should we care about where they spend their free time? Oh, well, if we can create social content around what that person likes to do, it makes us more trustworthy, likable, and knowable. And that is the social currency online, likability, knowability, and trust.

“If we can create social content around what that person likes to do, it makes us more trustworthy, likable, and knowable. And that is the social currency online, likability, knowability, and trust.” Jasmine Star

Jessica: Likability, knowability, and trust. That’s good.

Jasmine: Thank you, boo.

 

Bridging the Gap Between Business and Personal Media

 

Jessica: OK. So, we’ve identified our audience, and now there’s the question of business versus personal. And I don’t think it has to be a versus, I think it’s an and. But to your point earlier, you said like really you owed your success because you were talking about your mom’s chemo treatments, and you … which is so counter-intuitive because you’re trying to get wedding gigs booked, and yet you’re talking about your mom’s chemo. So, how do you actually package this and teach it in a way that someone kind of knows, when they’re planning out maybe their social for the week. I know a lot of my people still aren’t necessarily planning it, but they’ll get to that point.

Jasmine: After this call they better. They’re gonna be empowered though.

Jessica: I know. I know. So, how do you break that down in a way that we’re like, OK, I’m gonna talk about something personal today, OK, now I’m gonna talk about my business.

Jasmine: So, when we go back to, what’s too personal, what’s too businessy, what do I share? The clear-cut answer to this is, would my dream customer care about what I’m going to say from a personal perspective?

Now, my dream customer, her name is Elle, she’s 33 years old, and she lives in Manhattan Beach, and she’s married to a lawyer, and she has two boys, ages three and five. She recently vacationed in Santorini. Her father owns a goat farm in Ojai, California, which is where she ran through the fields and collected lavender and different wild flowers. Then she went to UCLA. She ended up living in a loft in Downtown Los Angeles where she started making goat’s milk soap and inserting lavender and wild flowers on top of it. She was recently selling it at a farmer’s market in Manhattan Beach, where a buyer from Anthropologie walked by and said, “Would you be able to create something like this for our stores?”

So, why Elle needs me, is she wants to know how she could scale and market her business online. Every time I share something personal, I ask, “Does Elle care?” Now, your dream customer may not care that your mom is going through cancer, your dream customer may not care about your dog, your dream customer may not care about your children. And in that way, it is nothing personal, it is business. And so, you’re gonna create content about things they care about. Why? Social media is all about the me. For the best and worst case, it is all about the me. How much joy, satisfaction, entertainment am I deriving with this device in my hand? If we understand that and we remove our emotions and sentimentality, it becomes very clear that we are in a place of … As we represent our business, we are in a place of service to our customers.

And lo and behold, when I decided that, yes, I would share about my mother’s journey with brain cancer and remission, and when I talked about my dog, and when I talked about the vacations I went to … I went on, Elle cared about that. And lo and behold, I attracted women who have some sort of experience with cancer in their families. I attracted women who had dogs. I attracted women who were not just marrying for the wedding, but they were marrying for the marriage, why? Because I’m very open about my relationship with my husband and my business partner. What you put out is what you get back, as long as you believe that person cares about it to begin with.

Jessica: Why does Elle care? I know you’ve recently shared your foster journey online and adoption journey, why does Elle care about that?

Jasmine: Because Elle is a mom.

Jessica: Oh, she’s a mom? OK.

Jasmine: Elle has two boys, and Elle drives a white Range Rover. And so here she is and she’s trying to … I think, quite honestly, from an outsider’s perspective here I am a successful entrepreneur. And I say that with all humility. I think though that it could be pretty polarizing, me not having children. Because people can immediately say, “well, every night is date night, and every meal is Thanksgiving when it’s just two people. And I’m sure you have all the time in the world to work in your business.” Listen, that may or may not be true. Nobody is in my home and nobody is at my dinner table, and nobody is in my bedroom. However, it’s really important for me to be open about what it looks like for me to be an entrepreneur who is still navigating a gestation period. It might not be biological, but it definitely does take time and training and meetings after meetings after meetings about what this looks like.

So, however people would like to view my gestation period, it’s been much longer than the traditional 10 months it is for a natural-born baby, but it is my own, and I will share it because I believe she cares.

Jessica: So, I wanted to ask you about personal accounts, because sometimes I feel like … And I have to think about this a lot. Like, a lot of people out there just are using social for personal, just for like, here are my kids, and they aren’t thinking about who their target audience is or anything like that. Would you say … I just wanna think about this journey because I feel like a lot of people, like maybe they start a side hustle and then there’s this moment of like, how am I gonna use social? Am I gonna switch from being this personal account to a business account? Do you suggest that people have kind of that private “follow me if you really wanna see my kids” and in addition to a business account, or do you have an opinion on this one?

Jasmine: I believe that the opinion is entirely your own. But when you make that decision, you have to follow through. There comes a point of no return, when all of a sudden you have, let’s just say hypothetically 1,300 followers, right? And it’s a wild mix of friends, family, people you went to school with, and all of a sudden you pick up a side hustle, and you realize that you can use your current social media following to promote what it is that you do.

You need to make a decision then to say, I want to keep this following, my friends, family … the ability for me to not have to be strategic on Instagram, the ability for me to post 13 photos of my family vacation at Walt Disney World after I haven’t posted in three weeks. The ability for me to post like me and my kids in our Christmas PJs, day after day after day for all 25 days of December. Like, when you have a personal account and you choose to keep it a personal account…

Jessica: Yeah, it sounds kind of nice. I’m like, I’m trying to remember this life.

Jasmine: You know what, no kidding, I often think about when we get, not if, but when we get our baby, I probably will have to start another account, because I’m just like, I want to post all those … I don’t wanna have to think about who’s watching, why they’re watching, what my strategy is. Because when you use social—I’m pretty polarizing in my opinions. When you use social media for your business, it really extracts a lot of the fun from it. It should always be fun, but you can’t assume that when you have no parameters, no rules, no strategy, it’s gonna be just as fun as when you do have rules, strategy, and implementation. But then you also can’t complain that your account ain’t profitable. So, it’s a give and take.

So, when you show up with a plan, a strategy, an action, and they’re in a place of service—well, if you can monetize it, then you’re doing well. So, the decision is yours, but when you make that decision, then you just have to make sure that you’ve communicated with your audience. So, like let’s just say you have 1,300 followers and you decide, OK, I am going to represent Noonday, I’m gonna be strategic, I’m gonna show up, I’m gonna use this differently. Then it would behoove you to really be forthcoming with your audience over the next couple weeks, a couple times a week, and say, “this is what I’m doing, I’m changing, just to like, let you guys know. Please support me. Like, let me know if I can support you, how can we collaborate?” Like, be really open about that, because I think more than anything, people don’t wanna feel bamboozled.

 

Building the Social in Social Media

 

Jessica: Yes, that’s so true. OK, let’s talk about the two-sided street to social media. We’ve talked about producing content for our audience. How do you approach the interaction that happens on social media, and creating community there?

Jasmine: You know, it’s really important. Like, if we were to use the analogy of like a two-way road on social media, it’s really important that the two-way road is highly or should be highly unequal. So, if I’m driving in one direction, I’m gonna look to my left and I’m going to see eight highways going the other direction, and I need to make sure that I am serving those eight highways in greater proportion than me trying to be like, “Hey guys, look at me in my lane.” “Hey guys, I’m posting on Instagram, you all should care.” No, they shouldn’t. You need to care about the eight lanes. You need to go back and respond to every single comment. You need to go to hashtags that are really servicing your target demographic and you need to like 10 photos and leave 10 meaningful comments every single day. You ain’t got engagement on your account? Guess what? You’re not owed engagement on your account. You have to create the engagement that you want, and the only way that you create it is by giving it first.

“You’re not owed engagement on your account. You have to create the engagement that you want, and the only way that you create it is by giving it first.” Jasmine Star on social media interaction.

I mean, I don’t wanna get all biblical, because I know that it’s not all biblical listeners, but this is like a tenet. Like, you give more than you receive. That is literally how social media works. And when you get a DM, you—to the best of your ability—should be responding within 24 hours. Why? Well, number one, it’s a nice thing to do, but number two, people are using Instagram and Facebook as customer support. And you have to just embrace it. Like, when you live by the sword, you die by the sword. You wanna grow your business on social media, you better show up like a business on social media. That is just the truth.

And in order for you to create community, specifically if you’re selling something, the general sentiment, the culture on social media, when you’re selling something, people approach it as, “buy my thing, buy my thing—Here’s a new collection. Here’s the fall line. Buy one, get one. We’re donating. Ten percent off. Hey, Thanksgiving, what do you think before I buy this necklace?” It’s like … that isn’t selling, that is literally like a really bad version of QVC. It’s a commercial after commercial after commercial.

When you understand that you’re there to create value around the thing you sell, then it becomes a different game, then you create the conversations, and then you let people know, I’m a real person, I’m here for you, I care about you first and then the business that we can create together.

Jessica: OK. So, what are the different ways that we can engage? Because I’m doing the basics. Like I get back to my DMs, and I always go and read through all my comments and like them and comment on them. Sometimes I don’t know like … because Instagram now curates my feed for me, so I’m like, do I just scroll through every now and then and like, like, like? Because you talked about … We have a hashtag actually called Noonday Style, and it’s like over, I don’t know, like 70,000 tags at this point.

So, I definitely go on there like once a week and just go and like, like people’s … anyone who’s tagged Nonday Style. What are other ways of engagement? I just gave you three that I’m doing. Like, what am I missing?

Jasmine: OK. So, with all humility, can I challenge something that you said?

Jessica: Challenge, girl. I am not that good in this area.

Jasmine: OK. Because you said, “Instagram is curating my feed,” and no, boo-boo, you are. You are. And you wanna know why? Instagram is just watching your actions and then guessing what you want to see next. Here’s why. The algorithm is created into four parts, we don’t have to get into all four parts, but let’s just assume that every time you are on Instagram, big brother is watching you. You and I could follow the exact same 100 accounts. In fact, you, me, and 8 other people could be following the exact same 100 accounts. When we log into Instagram, our feeds will all look different. Why? It’s based on our actions while we are in the app.

Did we have a tendency to like more photos of puppies? Did we leave comments on yoga posts? Did we somehow in the explore feed stop over a video of a meme? Oh, well, all of this is information to the algorithm, so that when you go back into your feed, what will you likely see? Puppies, yoga, and memes. Instagram isn’t curating your feed, your actions are curating your feed. So, if you wanna see more from a particular person, account, genre, make those actions on behalf of your account.

So now that we know that, my objective when I create content as well as when I give content, or give engagement, is to understand—I simply want people taking an action on my account, so that the next time you open the app, there’s a higher likelihood of them seeing my photos and videos and Instagram Stories.

So, when we talk about what more can we do, it’s going to be really important to be strategic about where you’re going to maximize your time. So instead of designating one day to going to Noonday Style, you can actually follow a hashtag. Like, type in the hashtag, you put the pound sign, like the hashtag sign and then whatever it is. So, we’d say #NoondayStyle, and then we press enter or return. And then at the top you will have a button that says you can follow that hashtag. Instagram is making it easy for you to give engagement. You click on that follow, and then as you scroll through your feed naturally, you’re going to see posts within the Noonday Style hashtag, that you might have missed by only going to that hashtag once a week. And there it is in your feed, and you like it and you leave a comment. What kind of comment? Well, you wanna leave a comment that’s more than four words, because comments are not created equal on Instagram or Facebook. Comments that are more than four words hold more weight.

And so, what do we do to get the type of engagement that we want? Well, if you go and you leave a comment that says, “cute,” “fun,” “pretty,” there’s a good chance that somebody is gonna come back to your account and leave, “cute,” “fun,” “pretty.” We teach people how we want to engage with them. If you want people to leave some real comments—Because sometimes have you ever been in your account and you look at one word, and you’re like, “I’m not sure if this is like a bot, or if this is a real person. Like, should I hide it? I’m not sure.” Like, we have to give engagement that is non-negotiable, no misunderstanding. Like, Jessica saw my stuff and she likes it. That is a game changer.

“If you go and you leave a comment that says, ‘cute,’ ‘fun,’ ‘pretty,’ there’s a good chance that somebody is gonna come back to your account and leave, ‘cute,’ ‘fun,’ ‘pretty.’ We teach people how we want to engage with them.” Jasmine Star

 

Choosing Followers to Serve: Less Is So Much More

 

Jessica: So, who do you want? How do you find out? How are you making sure you’re commenting on Elle’s stuff?

Jasmine: Well, I just reverse-engineer what I think she follows, like what accounts I think she follows. And then I will follow those accounts, and I’ll like, and I’ll leave comments. And it’s really crazy because specifically when you participate in hashtags, you don’t have to use the biggest hashtag and you don’t have to comment on the biggest accounts.

In fact, I have this philosophy. Ooh, this would actually work really well with Noonday Ambassadors. Is that I have a philosophy that I am never going to be, nor do I want to be the person who is the most popular, the most followed, the most viral. My objective is to serve the queen bees of their tiny communities. So, you give me 10 Instagrammers that have 1,000 followers, and I will be so much happier engaging with them, than 1 Instagrammer that has 10,000. That math has always held up for me. Because I understand that when there’s smaller, tiny, microcosms of community of people who trust the queen bee, if I could create a relationship with the queen bee … So, let’s define what a queen bee is.

I live in Newport Beach, California, and I say, “Oh, there’s a queen bee.” The queen bee is the woman who wakes up early, runs for … Or my queen bee, I should say, my definition of queen bee. Now, this goes back to our dream customers, but I can say based on Elle, I can now identify who the queen bee is in that little community of where she is in Manhattan Beach. She’s the kind of person … It doesn’t have to be Elle, it could be Elle or somebody that Elle is attracted to. And this queen bee wakes up at 5:00 a.m., she runs five miles before she wakes up her kids for school. She’s the kind of mom that puts bows in her daughter’s hair and is the PTA president. And these are the women who take their coffee in the morning, and then, “Ladies, let’s all go on a walk.” And then, like, she’s the one at the front with the stroller and then like the eight moms behind her with the strollers. Like, she’s the one that says, “OK, it’s coffee time, let’s go.” She’s like the impetus to like the social activities. If she then validates my business, as a byproduct, her crew will validate my business.

Same philosophy happens online, specifically on Instagram. You connect with a queen bee, she starts wearing Noonday, and then she becomes simply a conduit to you, you’re winning all day.

Jessica: Well, that’s how our whole business took off. I mean, because we have these Ambassadors, they are the queen bees. I mean, I’ve got 2,000 queen bees, you know what I mean? And that’s how the business got to land on Inc.’s 45th fastest growing company in the world. And that brings me to this idea of, would you equate influencer to queen bee? Because we hear that word thrown around so much now.

Jasmine: No, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. Like, in my mind, an influencer is amazing for brand awareness, an influencer has less to do with sales, and those two things are so wildly different. And I feel like I’ve been, like, really fortunate to see this trend, and I love talking about it and sharing with people. An influencer is paid to talk about product. An influencer is walking and creative and pretty, with a six-pack billboard. Like, that’s what an influencer is. If you want sales, you go to the queen bee. If you want notoriety and visibility, you go to an influencer.

“An influencer is amazing for brand awareness, an influencer has less to do with sales, and those two things are so wildly different. … An influencer is paid to talk about product. An influencer is walking and creative and pretty, with a six-pack billboard. Like, that’s what an influencer is. If you want sales, you go to the queen bee. If you want notoriety and visibility, you go to an influencer.” Jasmine Star

And like, there are two different objectives here, quite honestly. Noonday has its objectives, and then each of the Ambassadors have their objective. So, for Noonday it’s been freaking amazing because you’re like, “Oh, we’re working with queen bees.” But how do you then empower the queen bees to build their networks? They have to know how to identify and spot the queen bees in their neck of the woods. And to have resources and like pathways for them to do that would be in Noonday’s best interest. Because when you empower your queen bees, and they empower their queen bees, and they empower their queen bees, then it becomes an entirely different game.

 

Riding the Trends

 

Jessica: Speaking of trends, what have the trends that you’ve noticed and really taken note of in the last year been, and where do you see trends on social media going? And then I just wanna wrap up in here where you personally are going.

Jasmine: I think, for lack of better words, I feel like there’s a boomerang effect in social media. Social media is so new. Like, Instagram was … I mean, excuse me, Facebook was made open for people, for the masses in 2009-2010. Instagram kind of hit the ground in 2011-2012. At the time of this recording, it’s 2019. That is in its infancy. Like we haven’t had enough time to go through a decade or a cycle of how it’s impacting us as a culture, what we consume, how we behave. It’s literally like all of us holding mobile devices are in eight-year rave, and it’s like, what happens when the sun comes up? It’s like, how is that gonna impact us?

And I kind of sort of see a trend would be a boomerang effect of we’re kind of understanding the after-effects of what it means to be on social, and what it means to have an overly curated life, and what it means to like—everything is perfect all the time, when what resonates really well on social, is not the FAB FEST, it’s not that. It’s just people showing up and saying, “I have good days, I have not-so-great days, this is what I do, this is who I am.” People who are just real, that’s going to win in the next three to four years on social, easily, easily.

“It’s just people showing up and saying, ‘I have good days, I have not-so-great days, this is what I do, this is who I am.’ People who are just real, that’s going to win in the next three to four years on social, easily, easily.” Jasmine Star on where social media is going.

Jessica: And honestly though, I feel like some people are just trying to be real and they aren’t even real. You know what I mean? Like, it’s just like I feel like people over-curate, and I mean … It’s crazy.

Jasmine: You have to. I mean, this is … it’s crazy. And I listened to this amazing interview by mega, mega, mega influencer, Casey Neistat. And so, he uses some choice language, adult verbiage, which I will refrain from. But he says that when he watches his 18-year-old son consume social media, it’s such an indicator that the next generation has such a very refined BS radar, that people now know when you’re just trying to be authentic, and it’s not being authentic. And yet we as producers are like, “I’m being so authentic right now.” No, you’re not. If you’re really thinking that you’re being authentic and trying to be authentic, you’re not authentic. And our radars are so attuned to it now on social media, it’s taken us like 8 to 10 years to actually kind of like figure out like, “oh, that ain’t right, that’s fake.” And so, the sooner we just come to and accept that we don’t have to try to be authentic, we just are, it’s going to resonate much differently on social.

Jessica: I was asked by The Magnolia Journal to write an article for them on authenticity, and it just … it comes out next week. And I just got the hard copy yesterday and read it. And obviously I’m so, like, completely honored that they asked me to do that, but it really called me forth when a national magazine is like, “Hey, teach us about authenticity.” And I have to say that I disagree because I think that authenticity, you do have to be conscious about it. Because I think that our … the effortlessness is we wanna pretend. Like, we want to play pretend. I think we naturally wanna put the masks on, and it takes a lot of effort for me to go, “Am I about to play pretend in this situation? Am I about to be a different person around this audience than I am around this audience?” So, I actually think that authenticity does require effort to do it in a real authentic way. I don’t know how to say that. Like, I think it’s hard. I think it’s hard.

“I actually think that authenticity does require effort to do it in a real authentic way.” Jessica Honegger

Jasmine: Oh, it’s absolutely hard. It’s absolutely hard. And I actually don’t think that we’re saying anything different at the root of it. And here’s how…

Jessica: Yeah, I think that we’re just seeing it differently.

Jasmine: Absolutely, because we’re programmed differently. So, you have been given this God gift and skill, for you to be like, I need to be highly cognizant that I’m staying true to who I am. I have been programmed to be like … If I have to show up and be like, “Are you saying the right things?” “How are you acting?” “Are you floating on air?” That’s so fake that people say … So, we are saying the same thing, but according to how we’ve been created and how our makeup is. And at the end of the day, the minute you identify who do you need to be and how do you need to be aware of it or unaware of it, I think is going to empower you. But I think the conversation is so good to be having, and as long as we’re having it, and we’re aware of what we need to do to be our truer selves, we’re going to end up at the same point.

Jessica: It’s so true. Is like that meme that’s like, “You do you, girl,” and it’s like, well, in order to do you, you got to know who you are. And that’s really the ultimate journey that we’re all on, which is how you open the whole podcast really. It’s like, who are showing up for? You know? And are you trying to just show up for you, are you showing up to serve others? And that really is the journey that we’re on, is loving other people. Loving God, loving others. OK, Jasmine, I’m in love with you. Oh, my word. Like, why has it taken us this long? I just…

Jasmine: I don’t know. I don’t know. But we had to meet at Target in Austin, Texas, for this to happen. And I mean, like, God bless Target, you know?

Jessica: Seriously. Forever. Forever and always.

Jasmine: Absolutely.

Jessica: OK, tell me, how do we get more of you?

Jasmine: I’m on all social platforms, @jasminestar. And if you are a small business owner and you’re wanting to learn more about how to show up on social media every day, you can get more information at jasminestar.com, and checkout the resources that I’ve created at socialcurator.com.

Jessica: OK, I wanna wrap it up by asking you how you’re going scared right now.

Jasmine: I think we’ll loop it around to where I think is like the sorest spot in my heart. I think that it’s so easy to talk about things that I feel confident in, that’s business, and that’s God, and my family. But the sorest spot for me right now where I’m totally going scared is this whole journey to being a parent. Way too many question marks that I’m comfortable with, I think that we have … You know, you make plans and then God laughs. We have made plans for a few years and they just don’t work out the way we expect. And so, at this point I just feel like I’m putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that the net will appear when I decide to jump.

Jessica: Ahh, that was so good. And I love bringing intentionality no matter where you’re showing up. Whether you have an email list, a social media account, a podcast, a business, whatever you might have, when you have an audience, show up to serve and love on that audience. And keep their needs in mind.

Y’all, thank you so much for being a listener on the Going Scared podcast. I love hearing from you, I love getting suggestions from you, and I love getting your reviews! The more that you leave a review on and in iTunes, the more people get to learn and discover conversations like this.

I wanted to give a shoutout to Kiera Etch who wrote about the podcast, that it’s simply phenomenal. “This podcast is simply phenomenal. Jessica covers a variety of topics and interviews people with such a wide spectrum of life experience. Every single podcast leaves me inspired and encouraged to keep pursuing my passion and calling.” Thank you so much. Y’all, hop on over to iTunes. We provide this content absolutely for free, and we would love for you to spread the word about what you’re learning on the Going Scared podcast.

Thanks so much for tuning in today. Our wonderful music for the show is by my good friend, Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz. And I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time. Let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.