Have you ever wondered how you can build a business using influencer and affiliate marketing? In this episode, Camille welcomes Courtney Brown, the CEO and founder of Cents of Style and Be Fulfilled, two multimillion-dollar companies. Cents of Style aims to bring the latest in clothing and accessories in an accessible and affordable way while Be Fulfilled aims to help influencers develop, source, ship, and service their own product lines.
Ultimately, just like anyone’s going to tell you in sales, it comes down to relationship. This isn’t just about selling a product. It’s about the people involved.
Courtney shares her 15-year journey in building Cents of Style and Be Fulfilled from the ground up and the pivotal changes that she made to turn a zero-dollar revenue business to now two multimillion-dollar companies. She shares how she used influencer marketing to grow her business and what affiliate marketing platforms her companies use. She also shares the importance of settling into the flow and setting clear intentions for your business.
If you’re not always willing to be looking and shifting and thinking what’s next and how can I move and pivot, you will be left behind. The old model will not continue to work only from a standpoint of things are always changing.
If you’re interested in expanding your business through influencer marketing, tune into this episode to hear Courtney’s advice on how you can grow your business by building the right relationships that are mutually beneficial.
When you continue to show life that you will show up for every opportunity, the good and the bad and give it your all, it’s amazing how others things begin to open up.
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Connect with Courtney:
Follow Courtney on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/courtney.ellen.brown/
Follow Cents of Style on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/centsofstyle/
Follow Be Fulfilled on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/befulfilled_
Access Cents of Style at: https://www.mycentsofstyle.com/
COURTNEY BROWN [0:00]
Genuinely how we've gotten good at it, a lot of trial and error and time. I think we underestimate. I think we live in a world that is continual information and continual success stories, continual highlight reels, and we absolutely forget that one of the best lessons and teachers is strictly time in the game.
CAMILLE WALKER [0:32]
So, you want to make an impact. You're thinking about starting a business sharing your voice? How do women do it that handle motherhood, family, and still chase after those dreams? We'll listen each week as we dive into the stories of women who know. This is Call Me CEO.
Hey there. Thank you so much for joining us today. I recently had a fan of the show ask how they could help support this podcast and there are a few different ways. I wanted touch on them briefly here. First of all, listening and downloading and subscribing to this show as you are listening right now is a huge help. Also, leaving a review wherever you are listening to this episode is a huge help. You simply click on the show and in the tab below, it'll pull down and say leave a review. That is massively helpful to podcasts. So, if you are wanting to support any of your favorite podcasters, please consider leaving a review, sharing their episodes on social media or sending a note. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to hear from you in personal DMs, where you can find me @callmeceopodcast on Instagram or @camillewalker.co.
So, leaning into today's episode, I wanted to talk about what a special day it is for our podcast guest. Today actually marks 15 years since she's been in business. Courtney Brown is the creator and CEO of Cents of Style. That's spelled C-E-N-T-S, affordable fashion and also Be Fulfilled, which is a center dedicated to helping anyone who has product that they want to bring to market, specifically women, not only women, but she did say specifically they helped a lot of women bring their product to market without having to worry about all of the stress of having that product fulfilled.
And I can tell you from experience I have had a lot of bad experiences with having a fulfillment center that did not do what it said it would do and I know from experience from my friends that have had worked with Cents of Style and with Be Fulfilled that they always do what they say that they will do and are really incredible at customer service.
What's really fun about Courtney is that she has always had a really unique sense of style. She really does and she has a really lovely personality, but she's also really raw and authentic and I think you're going to hear that a lot. These interviews are opening up a lot of life lessons as well as heartfelt experiences and I know that you're going to feel that and a feel of her heart and what a hard worker she is. There is so much in this episode I cannot wait for you to hear.
But first I want to thank our sponsors, Station Park, for being a sponsor of this show. I wanted to let you know that there are many things available at Station Park to create special memories and moments. One thing that is special that's coming up soon is actually on March 5th. They're having the Juniper Market which is supporting local artisans and small businesses in the lobby of the Concierge Center. There will be treats, bath products, baby gear, jewelry, clothing, and much more. So, if you want to come and support small businesses, that's a wonderful time to do that as well as taking a look at their calendar of things that you can do together whether it's acroyoga with Root to Rise, making pottery at As You Wish. I've done that with my kids and it is so much fun or taking a cooking class. That is a really fun girls' night out or date night. I've done it for both and it's always a good time. So, thank you, Station Park, for being a sponsor of this show.
And let's dive into how to Courtney Brown built two multimillion-dollar businesses with a lot of grit and determination, but also learning how to settle in with her flow. She talks to us about how to work with influencers and how that transformed her business and how she's been able to grow and learn every step of the way. Let's go.
Welcome back everyone to another episode of Call Me CEO. I am your host, Camille Walker, and I've been looking forward to interviewing this gal for a long time. I've had to hunt her down. She's a busy, busy person and she's also incredibly wonderful and kind and smart and all of the things you would hope in a friend and a mentor. Her name is Courtney Brown and she is the owner Cents of Style and of Be Fulfilled which has amassed to a very successful business and I cannot wait to dive into everything that you have to share with us here today, Courtney. Thank you so much for being here.
Thanks for having me, Camille, and thanks for your kind words.
You're very welcome. Now, Courtney, I've known you for a long time. I was just thinking about this morning as I was prepping for our interview today, I think the first time we met, and I'm sure you don't remember because it was probably a bigger moment for me, but I think it was at like a Snap Conference. I remember once you were one of the keynote speakers and this was a very long time ago for in the Utah space blogging and influencing and businesses building and you were there to talk about building a business. And I want to hear a little bit more about those beginning stages of building your business. I know it started as an online boutique of sorts, but it's grown to so much more. So, please introduce yourself and how your business started.
Yeah. I'm old school with this whole thing. Next month, next week actually, March 1st, 2007 was Cents of Style's incorporation date. So, I'm 15 years as a business owner as of next month which is a long time especially in this e-commerce space. We are original to it in a lot of ways. I began in 2007 and we did not begin online. I was a young stay-at-home mom who was looking for a creative outlet. We had adopted our oldest a year and a half before and after years of infertility, I thought, "I did it. I'm here. I'm doing this mom thing and that's my task." And I got into it and I was like, "So, I'm going to need something else. I'm going to need a creative outlet." And fashion has always been something I was passionate about since I was a little girl. I was the 10-year-old girl who took her birthday money and went and bought a blossom style dress and hat at the mall. That's a true story.
Bucket hat, I remember blossom, yes.
Yeah. Give me the bucket hat with the flower on it. For those of you who saw all of the fashion that is in style in 2022 when it came around the first time in 1994. But that was the origin. So, I thought, nobody is doing fashion affordably and I am the person that all of my family and friends come to and say, "So, you're young, married with a young family, and how are you doing this?" And I'd be like, "Here are my tips."
I started, like I said, in 2007. This is before e-commerce really was a thing. This is just the blogging was beginning, but they were family blogs. I considered starting a fashion blog, but at the time, no one had figured out how to monetize those. That would come a couple years later. And so, I thought, if I'm going to spend the time, I'd really like to make some money doing it. And sometimes, I laugh at that because if I had had the foresight to become a blogger, this might have looked slightly differently.
So, I began with no business plan, no capital, nothing. I had the idea in January and by March, I had acquired some affordable items at in-home parties and boutiques and trunk shows and that's how Cents of Style began. We did that for the first several years of the company. Just start where you are with what you have and I amassed about 40-50 stylists in and around the Wasatch Front in Utah and then Boise, Idaho and down even into Arizona where we were selling affordable specifically shoes and accessories at in-home parties, trunk shows.
And if you remember back in those early to mid-2000s, those home parties and those trunk shows were really very popular. But I got about five years in and I realized that I had a massive problem because I'd never done more than $150,000 in revenue in a year, never paid myself anything, and I was about $50,000 in debt. And so, what I had created wasn't scalable. It was a nice little fun thing I did on the side, but took a ton of time, but I haven't paid myself any money for doing it and I had amassed a ton of debt. So, I realized I either had to let it go and walk away or I had to shift and pivot.
And that shift and pivot came for us at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 when my dear friend I grew up with was running the affiliate marketing program for one of the country's coupon blogs. So, if you go back to the crash of 2008, one of the things that came out of that were coupon bloggers who were the very first women to learn how to monetize a blog. And that's where this entire industry came from was those women who said, "I've got to make some extra money on the side for my family and hey, coupons.com will pay me if women will print these coupons for my site."
And I actually have two of the biggest coupon blogs in the country to this day were girls that I grew up with in my hometown of Boise Idaho, Heather Wheeler of Krazy Coupon Lady and Collin Morgan of Hip2Save. So, my very dear friend was running the affiliate marketing program at Krazy Coupon Lady at the time and she said, "Hey, I really think you shouldn't give up on this and instead you should go 100% online and you should focus on affiliate and influencer marketing." By the way, influencer was not a thing then. That hadn't been coined. It was blogger and affiliate marketing. And so, I did. I pivoted. I took my revenue at $0. I got rid of all the stylists and I took it 100% online at the end of 2011, very beginning of 2012.
So, Camille, five years, after five years of being a company, that's when I did that. And from there, focusing on affiliate and influencer marketing is when we really began to blossom and blow up. And we have since experienced year-over-year growth. It went from, like I said, taking that revenue to $0 and never having done over $150,000 a year to where we are today, which is owning two multimillion-dollar companies, Cents of Style and Be Fulfilled. Being a CEO of both 50+ employees primarily women, primarily moms. And yeah, so that's the origin to where we are now with a lot of pivots and challenges in the in-between.
Yeah. That's an incredible story. And I love that you said after five years of not knowing exactly what I was doing or how it was going to work, you did that pivot and it changed everything. In that time that you were pivoting and letting go of all of those people that had worked with you, what was the hardest part of that transition for you?
That I felt like utter failure. What was the motivation to go on other than a vision? What was keeping me going in that time? Because what I had done for so long didn't work. And I think back on that and I think that it was that what I had created was helping women, that greater why, I had seen women say, "It sounds crazy, but putting on this necklace or this cute pair of shoes and getting compliments make me feel better. It makes me feel better about where I am and who I am in this world." And I was like, "There's still something here." Even if I haven't figured out the how yet, there's still something here that helps and benefits people. And if I can just pivot, if I can just change it, is there a possibility that it can be more than it is now?
I'm so glad you kept going. Can you remember in that pivot of that time what it was that made you realize, "This could really work?" Was there a specific time that you can think of?
I can actually. In the fall of I'm not sure if it was 2012 or 2013, but within about a year, I realized, okay. I've learned this affiliate marketing thing. We're flowing with it. We're getting a little bit here and there, but I said, I need to give people a reason to show up. I need to give them something that they can count on and I came up with this idea of Fashion Fridays which meant a deal on a Friday that the affiliates could count on. There would be a new fresh fashion deal at a great price every single Friday. And we still do that to this day.
We also have changed it a little, but that idea that then sparked into that consistency in the fall. It was September of 2013. I had Hip2Save, Collin Morgan, pick up a boot deal. And I woke up in the morning and this is actually a funny story. My husband at the time was an ultrarunner. And he was running the Bear 100 race which is up in Logan, Utah in the mountains and it is a 100 miles footrace. And I was his crew. And so, what that meant was I was meeting him at stops to get him food and change his shoes and his socks.
And I woke up in the morning going out to crew him that first day and I pulled up my Shopify app and I looked down and it said $4,000 in the morning. And I thought, "What? Something's wrong. We'd never done $4,000 ever in the morning. What's wrong?" And I quickly realized that Collin and Hip2Save picked up this deal and it was dying because I didn't have enough inventory to cover it. So, here I was trying to go through the mountains of Utah while communicating simultaneously with vendors to try to get more inventory so I could keep these sales going. And I think that day had ended up being one of our biggest days. It was the biggest day to date ever and I think we ended up doing $12,000 or $13,000 that day in a single day in sales. This is a decade ago and I thought, "This is going to work."
Oh my gosh. So, were you able to get the boots in time?
Yeah, got it worked out.
Wow. Because I can tell you, fulfillment, I don't know if it was shipping from overseas, but getting caught up is a nightmare.
Especially today in today's crazy logistics world that we've never seen before.
So, as you were building this business, I'm curious now that we're talking about fulfillment because it was around that time, 2012, 2013 that my sister and I did a deal site for five minutes. Because literally, we sold some peacoats that were hot on the market, you probably remember this, and there was someone that had overpromised the amount that she had and we had also sourced some. And we were out driving these peacoats around on the week of Christmas trying to get people their peacoats because they had been held up at customs and I just thought, "Man, this fulfillment business is so hard. The customer service, I hate letting people down." How did you get through moments like that? And obviously, you've been doing it for five years, so it probably didn't take you by storm like it did me, but I was like, "Oh my gosh. This is crazy."
A lot of learning. So, Cents of Style and for those of you who don't know, C-E-N-T-S, we've always been about affordability in fashion. And so, because of that, we don’t have huge margins. We just have to become ultra-lean and clean from a fulfillment and an ops standpoint. And one of the gifts of that is I have a partner, my husband, John, who ended up joining Cents of Style full-time in the fall of 2014 and he is incredibly good at operations. So, he came in and came in on a COO and made sure we had the technologies in place, leveraged the shipping, and got the correct shipping partners, the correct customer service software, all of those things. And genuinely how we've gotten good at it, a lot of trial and error and time. I think we underestimate. I think we live in a world that is continual information, continual success stories, continual highlight reels, and we absolutely forget that one of the best lessons and teachers is strictly time in the game.
That's a quote right there. I'm like, "Yes, that's so true." There are so many things that are learned along the way and I love that you brought that into the storyline of your business because bringing your husband onboard, was that a huge leap of faith? Walk me through that process a little bit about when you both decided it was time to do that and what you felt like needed to be in place for that to happen?
Yeah, absolutely. He was the VP of sales at an import company.
He was very good at his job and he was on the road a lot. He managed 40+ sales guys across the country and it was starting to become an opportunity cost for us not because, as I like to say, I built Cents of Style in the crumbs of time. I built Cents of Style in the Netflix hours, the number of years that I worked from 9 to midnight is a decade plus. It's only within the last five years probably that I worked 9 to 5. This is the new part of the journey.
And for John, it was well over a year of discussion and it was what could we accomplish together and are we a good fit working together that we couldn't accomplish alone? And honestly, walking away from his salary and saying, "Hey, this is all on us," that was scary. It really, really was. It ended up being a great decision for us, but we were very honest about each other about what our roles were, where we would both fit. And we continue to have those discussions today and it evolves and changes and we have to talk about it in every regard, not just business roles, but home roles.
Who's in charge of what? We use the term lead parent. Who peels off if the school calls? Is that you or is that me? And for a long time, from about 2014 when John joined to 2018, 2019 when we started Be Fulfilled, he was the lead parent, and then I had to step back into that role in some regards. And then, I understand that this is a place of privilege, but I'll be very honest, we now both have assistants that also help us in that. And I think this is the moral of it is that it's ever-evolving. And just because it worked yesterday doesn't mean it's going to work tomorrow and it has be a continual conversation around it.
Yeah. I love that honest response because the couples that I've interviewed and talked to will often say that it is changing and you have to keep talking because if you're not talking, it's just like it compounds. Any marriage is a struggle. Marriage is hard, but communication is what makes it flourish and work and then if you add business to that, it's a whole other layer. So, I commend you both for being able to be such good communicators because that's the only way you could be successful.
Thank you. It's a continual process and we're better at it sometimes and worse at it sometimes. For example, this morning I was in an hour conversation with he and I and our assistants about kids' schedules because last week, we dropped things and I never want it to be my children to face that sacrifice because I have chosen what my life path is that way.
And I'm not perfect at it, even in the least. And if anybody says that they are, I would double click in on that and question whether they're being completely authentic because it's difficult. It's difficult and completely worthwhile. If you're thinking about working with your spouse, I think clarity in communication is the number one thing. Defining roles is huge, but then asking if you are compatible in that way because some people are and some people aren’t. For us, it works really well when we have our own responsibilities. When those get blurry, it gets a lot harder.
Yeah. I think that's really good advice. Now, going back to, you're starting to work with bloggers who are not yet called influencers, I know you've worked with so many different influencers. You've worked with a lot of different affiliate, I don't know how many programs you've used, but if someone is considering working with an affiliate whether it be an influencer or not, what is your best advice about the fulfillment products to use as far as technology and/or how to find the best fit for your company?
That's a great question. There's a lot to that. And so, first of all, you need a software, an affiliate management software for sure. That gives the affiliates, the influencers, the blogger, whatever term you want to use the trust that their commissions are being tracked properly. So, for those who don’t know what affiliate marketing is, it is that an influencer or someone of influence talks about that product and when they make a sale, they get some sort of commission or kickback on that sale. And affiliates, they run the gamut. From Amazon, some people only make 1%-8% on Amazon, dependent to if you're working with an MLM as an affiliate like sometimes you can even be working upwards of 30% and 35%.
Cents of Style, we pay between 10% and 18% based on the sales coming in. I am a huge fan of affiliate and influencer marketing because it’s a mutually beneficial marketing plan as opposed to a sponsored post, which unless you have super deep pockets, when you're Proctor & Gamble, I think is a much more difficult thing to do as a small business.
So, for me, it's been huge and you need that software and we have used two over the years. We still continue to use two. We use ShareASale which is very powerful, but very old school in a lot of ways. With the uptick of social media buying and Instagram buying, we have moved a lot to LeadDyno because of the ease of use. So, for sure, those are the two we've used. There are many more. That's just where I have familiarity and experience.
Yeah. I can agree with those. I've used both and I think that just what you said, ShareASale, there's a lot more available as far as worldwide what you can be an affiliate with where LeadDyno, I feel like if you have a relationship with a company and you can set that up together, the ease of use is so nice because it's just one click. It's just one click and you don’t have to search forever and I like it a lot.
Exactly. Super easy to use from a brand perspective. It is not nearly as powerful reporting, tools, mechanisms aren't there and even what you can do with your program is not there just based on the tech. But from the influencer side, from ease of use and quick to use, it's LeadDyno all the way. So, it depends.
I get asked this question a lot. How do you get influencers to post about your product? And I think the answer is, it's relationship. And how did I gain these relationships? I showed up at Snap Conference in 2014, 2015, 2016. I sponsored Snap, sponsored Alt, showed up in places where influencers were going to be and I didn't hit them up randomly. We became friends. Camille, we have known each other for close to a decade. I actually think we met at Pinners Conference.
That probably is what it was.
As I'm sitting here, I'm realizing the very, very first Pinners conference and you were doing webisodes at the time. Does that sound right?
Yeah. I actually helped them do their marketing their first run. I wasn’t paid anything, but I helped get everyone there. So, yeah, that's actually how I helped with their marketing and getting people lined up to be speakers and different things like that.
Just dropping into somebody's DMs, sure, that's a strategy, but knowing someone and having a conversation and then always looking at it as being a mutually beneficial value exchange. And I am a big believer in providing and giving that value first. How can I serve you and how can I help you? What do you need? You need swag for something. You've got a small conference. Absolutely, let me see what we can do. I spent years sponsoring conferences and influencer events and that's where I met people. And those meetings turned into true genuine friendship over the years and into some of our best business relationships. Ultimately just like anyone's going to tell you in sales, it comes down to relationship. This isn't just about selling a product. It's about the people involved.
Yeah. Now, tell me more about Be Fulfilled because I love that you're saying so much about relationships and how that has blossomed into making your business so much more than it was in the first five years was because you invested time into other people and to relationships. And I know that working with affiliates really helped to blossom Be Fulfilled. How did that transition happen for you? Because that really was such a unique service to be able to offer.
Yeah. So, we spun off our sister company, Be Fulfilled, we had the idea in 2017 and we incubated the idea in 2018 and spun it off in whole in 2019. So, I had a front seat to this emergence of social media marketing, influencer marketing, affiliate marketing over the last decade. I've literally watched it happen and as such, I've watched the market around it and we have been at the forefront all of us of watching the democratization of commerce in the United States.
It happened in the music industry. That's such an easy place for us to point to that you can say, it was these massive record labels, a few people making every single decision and now, anybody can put their music on Spotify or iTunes and find a following. Now, they say that no one will ever sell as many records as NSYNC did in the early 2000s because everybody was buying that and now, we have the choice of getting very specific on I like Americana folk and Spotify serves you up all these different people that sound similar. That's new.
That is a new thing and we're seeing the same thing in commerce. It went from big department stores. You could shop at Macy's. You could shop at JCPenney, at Sears, dependent upon where you lived in the country. You maybe have one choice, but with the invention of the internet and technology, it has gone from those big down to these digitally native brands like Cents of Style or Cotopaxi or you name them. They're everywhere you turn, a Fawn Design, a Freshly Picked. We saw in 2017 that influencers themselves were wanting to become their own product, create their own products and become their own brands in that sense. You can point to the Joanna Gaines who has made that into an absolutely incredible business of going into Target or I'm getting geeky here, but do you remember Oh Joy! for Target and what a big deal that was?
Back in the day, everyone was seeing this opportunity and we realized that we weren't uniquely situated because remember I said we had to get really good at operations to help women grow product-based businesses through operations. So, Be Fulfilled is an operations platform that we help with the product sourcing, development, fulfillment, customer care, and website management for other women-run brands and influencers. We don't do sales and marketing. That's not our gig. That is what influencers, that ability to create and create the buzz, they're already good at that. We get to be the back-end and be their back-end ops team and deal with all of that stuff that whether or not you realize it takes so much time and energy.
Yes, so much.
What if you got to leverage my 15 years of fulfillment knowledge, of product sourcing knowledge? John, he's been in sourcing his entire career. I've been in it in my entire career, so we come together and we say, "Let us use our knowledge to help you create a product line and grow as faster on its own." We saw the opportunity and it was quite frankly an answer to a lot of Cents of Style's critical issues.
We have always been bootstrapped with a little bit of debt financing and so we could only grow as fast as we could buy inventory source. We didn’t have services, so it's very common that product-based businesses bring on services and service-based businesses bring on product to grow and expand. This spin off of the company is service-based because we're doing the customer care. We're doing the fulfillment, but then also we're helping them source and create product. So, we have 40+ clients at Be Fulfilled and growing every day.
But again, it was a pivot that needed to happen. I can't stress that enough in my story is especially how fast everything moves these days, if you're not always willing to be looking and shifting and thinking what's next and how can I move and pivot, you will be left behind. The old model will not continue to work only from a standpoint of things are always changing.
That's so true. And it's funny because any online business is that way. For people who had been blogging 10 years ago, to be a blogger/influencer today is so different than what it was 10 years ago and even within that space. Now, everything's vertical video where a year ago, two years ago, I guess it was more than two, it was just the pretty photos. And it's interesting that that pivot and that flow is such a big part of success and I know that that's something you really believe in.
And we were at an event recently where we were doing a tarot card reading and I was so surprised when you said, "Yeah, I do readings." I'm like, "What?" which I think is awesome, so I'm going to bug you about it. But I had gotten the card, the cups, I got two. One that was with the woman of cups and one that had mini cups and that's all about receiving and the flow and letting things happen. And that was some advice that you gave me was you're in a space where things will happen. You just need to let them come to you and be in that flow. So, my question is, how do you allow yourself to be in the flow and yet be progressive and aware of changes so that you're not being left behind? What would be your best advice for that?
Okay. First, I'm going to say, I am super amateur at tarot and I only read for family and friends when asked. It's not like it's another side. No, I'm not. I’m not taking any money for doing tarot. That's beyond my scope of ability, so just being clear. That's such a good question.
Flowing with life, surrendering to the flow of life has been an active practice for me in the last several years. If you had asked me even five years ago, I wouldn't have even known what that meant. So, again, I think we need to give ourselves grace as we expand and learn concepts. Maybe I had done it, but I wasn't conscious about it.
So, when we were talking on Instagram and DMs, you had said you were reading The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer which is a fantastic book and one of my top three favorite books of all time is actually his autobiography, The Surrender Experiment. And if anyone is interested in this idea because it absolutely blows my mind every single time and I reread it every single year, my answer to that is it's such a broad thing, but whatever life has presented to you at that time, do your best at it. Work hard at it. Show life, show God, show the universe that you are willing to show up for what's in front of you even if it's not ideal.
Even if you want to be an influencer that Target is asking you to create a line for them, but right now, you've got 1,000 followers, show up for the 1,000 followers like it's everything and have gratitude for that and do your best at it. Because when you do that, all of a sudden, another opportunity is going to open up for you. And when you continue to show life that you will show up for every opportunity, the good and the bad and give it your all, it's amazing how others things begin to open up and that's a more existential answer.
From a more strategic answer, I would say every single year since 2014, we spend a couple days in the beginning of the year looking at what we call we do our strategic meeting where we try to identify the critical issues in our companies. What are the opportunities? Where are the threats? What are we good at and what are we bad at? And if we don't look at this thing, this critical issue, if we just continue to ignore it, it will become a bigger problem for us. So, how are you doing strategy? How are you saying, "I'm really good at photos, I'm great at taking Instagram images," but guess what? Instagram is not a photo-sharing platform anymore. If I don't learn about video, I will be left behind. So, when are you taking that time to slow down enough from the day-to-day to be strategic?
That's really good advice. I love that. My husband and I do a similar thing where at the beginning of the year, we set goals and not just for the year, but five and 10-year as well. And what's really fun, I feel like when you write something down and you put intention behind it, that we have found those lists that we've written five and 10 years ago and we're like, "Oh my, heck, we did every single on that list and it's so cool." Because I think a lot of it is identifying like you said the strengths, the weaknesses, and creating a strategic plan, but then being able to put it out into the universe within intention and creating that space for that growth and for whatever it is that you want. Do you feel like that's been true for you as well?
Absolutely. I read a lot. I often in these interviews, people, and I always refer to books. So, I apologize.
I love it.
I just finished The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer. And if you haven't been introduced to Wayne Dyer, I do recommend that you should listen to him. He died a couple of years ago, but his thought leadership is phenomenal. And if you're at all interested in growing a business, do not underestimate power of your mindset work and growing your own mindset. It will benefit you greatly.
But this idea of the power of intention, I think he says it so beautifully is like intention is literally a force with God. So, when we set an intention and we put it out there in writing or we verbalize it, there is something greater and bigger beyond us that is working with that. Now, I think a lot of times, we set intentions and think it's going to happen tomorrow. Again, timing, putting in the work, putting in the effort and letting life unfold. Yeah, you probably won't look back in a week and be like, "Look, I got all my intention." But in five years, in a decade, those are the type of timelines that we have to be comfortable working within if we want to make an impact and have a life's work not just a moment in time. I think that we are so quick to look at people and be like, "That just happened for her overnight." That’s not true. You don't know the years she's spent honing that skill and that just opportunity opened up at the right time. I think it was Steve Jobs that said that his was the longest overnight success story ever told. We all think that it should happen so quickly, but the key is to enjoy it while it's happening, find gratitude in it, and give it your all because then, all of a sudden, the magic happens of more opening up.
This does not mean it's not without difficulty or hardships. There will always be difficulty and hardships. There will always be failures. In the failures, I don't really believe in failure, but there will always be those moments that you feel like it's the failure, but if you can take those and start saying, "What did I learn?" And then say, "I learned that, so I know next time, I got to do this. What did I learn? Okay." And it's just this ever-evolving expanding unfolding, I guess.
Can you think of a time that you had a failure that transformed your business into something better? I'm sure just from the experience that you just glossed over a little bit that's what you've done all along the way. Is there one that is specifically sticking out in your mind that you can think of that would help our listeners?
Absolutely and this is a fairly recent one. And it's actually probably one I haven't shared hardly ever. And in 2019, I turned over 90% of my team and it was humbling to say the least. It was difficult. It was painful. It was a lot of emotion and why did this happen? And how did I get this so wrong? But what I can tell you is from that moment, from that time, everything shifted. It had to happen in order to make space and room for new and the revenue goals that were so difficult for us to hit from before, all of a sudden, happened like that because we had a fresh outlet, fresh talent, new mindsets.
And it was 2018 and 2019 were two of the hardest years of my life mentally, physically, emotionally. They were terrible. I was burnt out. I was unhappy. I took a sabbatical in the fall of 2018 and I hired a president January of 2019 and my entire team left. And I honor them for that decision. I honor that they saw a path for them that was better and I think that that is beautiful. It doesn't mean it wasn't freaking hard, but again, I'm going to remind you that we are now three years removed from that and my company has never been in a better position because of that "failure."
In that time of taking a sabbatical, what was it that was important for you and how much time did you take off for that healing and for that space for you to recoup?
It's an interesting story. On September 30, 2018, I was not in a good place. My health was failing. I was so stressed. I was unhappy and we were driving home from my mother's in Idaho and I turned to John in the car and I said, "What if instead of going into the office tomorrow, I got on an airplane instead?" And being the supportive partner that he is, he said, "I think that's a really good idea." He had actually floated the idea to me earlier that year or that summer.
And the next day, I used frequent flyer miles and I got on a plane by myself and I went to London, England for a week. And I spent most of my time in a little mystical town in the English countryside called Glastonbury, my own spiritual pilgrimage and experience of just really getting quiet and asking myself what I truly wanted after having hustled for 11 years.
And the answer came outside of myself I know because I never once chosen this was you need to take time off to heal and not just a week. So, October 1st was the start of the fourth quarter and if you know in the United States, that is when most American retailers do 50% of their revenue. And so, I came back and I said I was taking the rest of the year off from October to December and I did. And I stayed home and I cooked dinner every night and I really worked on me and it was a good choice. It also had unforeseen consequences like I told you because then I come back in 2019, I hired a president to help me and, like I said, people left. And I take responsibility for that. That is me. That is ultimately they made those choices for themselves, but also based on choices that I made.
And again, talk about being afraid but just trusting what you desire, what you need in that moment is for a reason. One of my company values is hustle and because I believe in consistent work, but I do not believe in the hustle culture any longer that we've created. I 100% believe in hard work. I 100% believe in consistent work. I do not believe in frantic work or don't ever take a break work because I actually think that's us trying to control instead of flow.
Yeah, wow. That's so profound and so refreshing to hear that honesty and to hear about that evolution of yourself and also to translate that to your team and how that in the end turned the tide on creating massive success after many, many years. That's incredible. Would you say that through doing this as a family affair, what has been the thing that you hope that your children will learn watching their mom and their dad working together and building incredible businesses together?
I hope that they learn that their dreams and their desires matter and that if they consistently pursue them, the magic happens.
I think you're doing just that. That's incredible. Courtney, thank you so much for spending this time with us today. I know that our listeners are going to want to check you out with both of your offerings, also please tell us about where we can find you and connect with you.
Yeah. You can connect with me personally on Instagram @courtney.ellen.brown just my name, and then @centsofstyle, spelled C-E-N-T-S of Style and then @befulfilled_, although we're not super active over @befulfilled_ but if that's interesting to you, please, please reach out.
Awesome. Thank you so much. This has been so wonderful.
Thank you. I appreciate you giving me the platform to talk.
Wow. That was a good one, right? I hope that as you're listening to this, if you found this helpful or any piece of it that you would like to share with a friend, please do so. You can do that on social media or by leaving a comment or a review on the show notes. Please tell me what you liked. I would love to hear about it. Thank you again for joining us today and I will see you next time.
Hey, psst. If you're listening to this right now, I don't know if you know this, but each and every week, I take our weekly guest and do a tiny mini-episode on Instagram Live. They're usually on Wednesdays between 10 to noon MST and today's episode is no exception. I’m going to have Courtney live with me tomorrow @callmeceopodcast on Instagram. I hope you will follow me and enjoy little snippets that are extra to what we're learning here. I hope to see you there.
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