Focus On Style began as a style website founded by Sharon Haver in 1999 that later on pivoted into the online entrepreneurial space.
For over two decades she has channeled her expertise into helping countless entrepreneurs perfect the art of branding and authentically showing up online in our digital age.
Was it a lightbulb moment or gradual moment to start Focus On Style?
We’re trained to believe that every successful business comes from extensive planning and validating. But some simply evolve. I originally launched FocusOnStyle.com back in 1999 with a very different intention. Styling everything from the covers of Vogue to basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain over a 20+ year career as a fashion stylist in New York City culminated in this pivotal moment in my career. My weekly advice column, Sharon Haver’s Focus on Style, was syndicated on the Scripps Howard Newswire to over 400 newspapers. Politely speaking, this syndication deal turned out to be a bust. I had to leave the newswire right before my son was born, but loyal newspapers were still expecting my weekly column.
How did you validate the idea?
With a newborn and no maternity leave, my fuzzy new mom brain needed to figure out a way to both deliver weekly content to my existing newspapers and find new ones. So, I launched Focus On Style as a B2B site to do just that. I was far from tech savvy, yet I taught myself website design, SEO, and webmaster tools. The SEO was major, as I became #1 for my keyword for a decade and received countless opportunities for media coverage and collaboration through search engine traffic alone. More press opportunities increased my consumer traffic and word of mouth marketing, too.
Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?
My world completely changed when I had my son and FocusOnStyle.com evolved alongside my life. I wanted to find a way to work from home so I could be there for my infant son when he needed me most. Even though I was a fashion stylist for years, I’m also equipped with a business degree in marketing and previously worked as a publicist. Using my business experience, I was able to transition FocusOnStyle.com from a style and fashion website to an online marketing and personal branding resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Over years of working behind the scenes on magazine covers and ad campaigns, I had mastered the art of positioning. As my website grew over the years and I started spending more time on camera as the face of my personal brand, I recognized that authenticity is the key to all successful branding. My business expanded the most when I started showing up as my authentic self.
So, I started offering coaching services and created courses, masterclasses, and premium programs to help elevate entrepreneurs and modern business owners through personality branding. Authentic Superstar is a five day program that teaches how to master personal branding photos from the convenience of your cell phone. Video Quickstarter provides a framework to create branding and sales videos that will grow your business without hiring a production team. While Simply Amazing Headshots offers a more intensive course in authentic visual storytelling. Additionally, I produced my own style and success podcast for women entrepreneurs called 7 Days to Amazing and published my #1 Amazon bestselling book, StyleWORD. Now, I have a new modern business lab in the works that I will be launching soon. Stay tuned for more!
Who is your target demographic?
Since FocusOnStyle.com was born out of my career in fashion, in the beginning my target demographic was women 30-50 years old. As my business evolved, my target audience evolved from women focused on fashion to female entrepreneurs, business owners, coaches, consultants, authors, speakers, and bloggers. Interestingly enough, in more recent years I’ve found a larger male audience with more men purchasing my programs than women. Today, my goal is to help personal brands authentically grow their online business and attract their most aligned customers.
How did you fund the idea initially?
Financially speaking, I did not need a lot of funding initially to start FocusOnStyle.com other than the startup costs of creating a website. My big investment was time. Learning how to design a website, mastering SEO practices that worked, and creating valuable content all take time. Luckily, I had a following from my syndicated column that helped me ramp up site traffic quickly, creating more business opportunities.
Where did you meet your co-founder/founding team? Any tips for finding first employees?
As a solopreneur in the online space, I have always used freelancers to support my business when needed and have found great freelancers on websites like UpWork. Though finding quality freelance employees can be difficult. So, I typically include a survey with more in-depth interview questions or a trial project to see if the collaboration is a good fit for me and my business.
What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?
It’s usually tech that goes wrong and tech is a four letter word. So take a deep breath, figure it out or pass it on to someone who can actually fix things. Luckily, I’m experienced in online business and techie enough to have a pretty solid idea of what is involved. So, it’s not so easy for a developer to double-talk around the actual issue.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
When you’re just starting out, It’s critical to understand how every aspect of your business works. It doesn’t mean you need to do everything, although in the beginning you probably will, but it does mean that you have the practical acumen to lead the big picture and not be a damsel in distress if something goes awry.
What has driven the most sales?
Always choose the platform that offers a potential customer the greatest ability to build a relationship with you in order to elevate the know, like, and trust bond which therefore leads to sales. Today’s algorithm makes only organic reach extremely time consuming and inconsistent. Targeted Facebook and Instagram ads that add value while spotlighting you and your brand story, personality, and values act in lieu of the old school 3-part launch video series that leads to a sales video. Once someone is familiar with you, then the actual offer will be more enticing. Media attention is also extremely important to bring brand awareness and then sales through a nurture process.
What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without? Why are they essential?
- I would not be able to run my online business without Kartra. Throughout my career online, I’ve used a whole range of marketing products, like Infusionsoft, MailChimp, Constant Contact, Leadpages, etc. rigged together to make them work for my business. Kartra offers an all in one solution where everything is done for you – email funnels, landing pages, membership sites, and anything else you need to run an online business.
- Canva is a great option for creating graphics when you don’t want to hire a graphic designer and want an easier alternative to Photoshop. The design interface is super simple to use and offers templates for everything you want to make – social media posts, Pinterest pins, video covers, PDF book covers, and more. You can even upload all of your brand fonts, colors, and images to ensure all of your content is always on brand.
- PicMonkey has a terrific retouching tool to naturally correct photos. You can also shape frames and create new layouts and effects.
- As you can imagine, I’ve had MANY web hosts and servers while running a website and online business since 1999. Liquid Web has been the best by far. I also adore and highly recommend my Astra WordPress theme because it is very customizable and optimized for fast website speed.
What are your favourite podcasts
As much as I enjoy listening to podcasts, I really loved hosting and producing my own. I hosted many inspiring and talented people on my 7 Days to Amazing podcast, the ultimate style and success podcast for women entrepreneurs. Check out the podcast if you’re ready to improve your life, business, and style.
What are the next products you’re working on? Are there any releases you can tell us about?
Right now I am developing a modern business lab that is a framework designed for established professionals who want to start their own business, break into a new market, or target a new niche. I am looking forward to the launch because this program will be in a completely new format than anything I have done before.
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