with Lesley Stonier
Brand Strategy & Story Coach
A famous marketer called Seth Godin once said “marketing is storytelling”, and you know what, it’s true. Lesley Stonier – a brand strategy and story coach from Brighton, United Kingdom, believes marketing is simple and what really sets you apart is your brand story – so you need to have a good one!
Passionate about helping women to believe in themselves and their abilities to become leaders in life and business, Lesley helps female founders turn their story into their unique USP, and find the confidence to get visible and market themselves. Lesley also creates tools and products to help female founders find their confidence and strengthen their self-belief.
Hi Lesley! What inspired you to start the business and how did you get started?
5 years ago, I left my corporate marketing career because I’d simply had enough.
I’d had enough of a people pleasing, of striving to fit a corporate mould that never quite felt right, of working all the hours and feeling like I was on a hamster wheel. I was anxious, I was burnt out, and I was tired.
I had always had a vision of empowering female founders to believe in themselves and build their business. As Head of Marketing for Lucozade Energy, I was top of my game in my corporate career, but when I left, and I didn’t have the corporate badge behind me any more it was a completely different story. One I didn’t anticipate.
I quickly discovered that finding the confidence to grow your visibility and market yourself as an entrepreneur is as much about the stories that we tell ourselves, as it is about the brand story we are telling our audience.
As an entrepreneur, you are the brand; you are the story. Getting visible is one of the scariest things to do in your entrepreneurial journey. All your fears come up to bite you on the backside.
You can have the best marketing strategies in the world, but unless you’re willing to keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, you won’t achieve the success you envisage for yourself. You’ll find sneaky ways to sabotage yourself and keep yourself safe.
I believe that the stories we tell ourselves create our realities. So, this means we have to tell ourselves empowering stories about who we are and what we’re capable of, whilst also getting visible, AND telling our audience empowering stories about our skills, successes, and why we can help them. This is no small task to do alone!
That’s why I’m so passionate about helping female founders tell their story, grow their visibility and build their brands. I want women to believe in their ideas, and believe themselves and their ability to do this. Women’s stories and voices have never mattered more, and the next generation deserve to see that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to.
What were some of the challenges you faced before and after launching?
Oh, there are so many challenges in making that shift from the safe, certainty of being a cog in a corporate wheel to going it alone.
One of my biggest challenges was that when I left I realised how much of my identity I had based on what I did, rather than who I was. On what I thought others thought of me, instead what I wanted for myself.
I set up my business and being completely honest I floundered. I spent ages building a lovely logo and website; a brand to hide behind that felt safe and familiar. I criticised myself constantly for not being able to market myself, struggled with imposter syndrome and self-doubt and sabotaged my chances by giving up at times.
It was only in strengthening my self-belief that things started to change. Affirmations played a big part in that, and that’s why this year I’m launching The Empowered Woman, an affirmation deck specifically for female founders to help them start to shift those stories and beliefs to support them rather than hold them back. The other thing that has really helped me is storytelling.
It’s much harder to feel imposter syndrome if what you are saying to yourself and others in rooted in your authentic experiences and achievements. That’s why storytelling is such a large part of the work I do with my clients, as when we turn their personal journey into their own unique USP, it sky rockets their confidence as they are coming from a place of authenticity. When you’re sharing from a place of inner strength you naturally grow your confidence because it feels good; and because storytelling is 22 times more memorable and creates and emotional connection, it means that people can’t help but sit up and take notice, which grows your visibility and attracts your audience straight to you.
I also find that when you break marketing down into practical, simple steps, you can keep taking action to build your visibility, and this helps you overcome those limiting beliefs, fears and doubts and builds your confidence.
If you could go back, what would you do differently?
I would start reprogramming my beliefs much sooner.
A lot of our beliefs are created when we are very young, and we misappropriate values to things when we don’t fully understand a situation and these ideas stay with us into adulthood. As these become our beliefs, our minds then seek out ways to reconfirm them to us.
So I would start to change my beliefs a lot sooner. I’d also start taking myself and my skills and talents seriously, and kill off the good girl, the perfectionist, and belief that girls should be seen and not heard.
These are all areas that are still very much WIP and I think they always will be, but awareness is the key to creating change and it’s all part of the journey!
Any advice to future female founders?
I would say that if you have an idea, a calling, or feeling, it’s there for a reason. If there is something inside you crying out to be realised (a business, a passion, a dream, to create something) then just go for it. Life is too short to be living a life that is based on fitting into other people’s expectations of yourself, constructed narratives, or what you’ve always believed you ‘should’ do.
You are strong, capable, resilient and you can create the life, the success and the income you want to. The most important thing is to get started, just start wherever you are, and then do the work to keep your self-belief strong. Get your mind and the stories you are telling working for you, not against you.
The rest, the marketing is just systems and processes that you can learn or get help with. You can do this!
What would you say your biggest lesson has been?
There have been so many lessons. Starting your own business is the biggest personal development journey you’ll ever take.
A few of the biggest lessons have been that failure is simply learning what works and what doesn’t, that you can always start again, and the one I live by… the stories we tell ourselves create our realities.
Where do you see the business in 2 -3 years time?
I am building a business that empowers women to believe in themselves, so there are so many exciting things ahead.
In the next 2-3 years you will see more coaching and courses from me, plus a new podcast and the launch of a fantastic new membership.
I will also be launching my first physical product line with The Empowered Woman affirmation card deck series later this year, and there’s another deck I’ve already started work on. I’m a stationery addict so I love the idea of creating my own stationery line.
I am also continuing to build on the work I do with corporates supporting female founders and young entrepreneurs, and finally growing and expanding the team so I can support even more women in starting and growing their businesses.
Stay tuned, because the next few years are going to be huge!