Q&A with Social Entrepreneur, Kristi Porter

Photo Credit: Johna Castro

Photo Credit: Johna Castro

Kristi Porter started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. She believes that cause-focused organizations are the future of business because they’re proof that companies can both make money and do good. And when they succeed, we all win. 

Can you tell our readers about your background?

Whew—that’s a long conversation! But the gist is that I have a background in writing, public relations, marketing, events, social media, and blogging. My degree is in business communications, so that education plus a variety of experiences have allowed me to pivot in many directions.

Early in my career, I worked at a boutique public relations agency that focused on the hospitality industry. From there, I worked solely as a freelance writer for a couple of years before becoming the Director of Communications at an environmental nonprofit. After that, I became the Event Marketing Director at a Christian event and curriculum company and was there for almost six years. And last July, I launched Signify.

Outside of full-time employment, I have been freelancing in some capacity for 15 years and served as a volunteer for a number of nonprofits. All of these different opportunities have had a big influence on what I’m doing today.

What inspired you to start your business?

My friends are the reason I started my business. I have a lot of friends with small businesses—nonprofits, ministries, and social enterprises—who needed marketing and business communications help, and would frequently ask me questions. Because they were small, they couldn’t afford someone like me full-time on their staff, so I was accessible and happy to help them succeed.

But in talking with them, I learned they could almost all afford to pay for project help. I knew there were more organizations out there like them, and that was the springboard for what I’m doing now. So, I work with clients on projects to help further their cause by looking and sounding more professional. 

Where is your business based?

 Atlanta, Georgia

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

I am an information junkie, so I soaked up everything I could regarding the type of business I wanted to create, running a business, what my kinds of clients would need, and things like that. I learned from peers, potential clients, webinars, podcasts, blogs, tele-summits, conferences, and really, just about anything I could find. This learning process began heavily about six months before I left my full-time job, and of course, is still ongoing. I love learning new things.

Funny enough, the hardest part of getting started for me was choosing a name! I’ve always been a writer, so it took me months to land on something that I thought I could love for a long time. I literally had a couple of months worth of checks sitting on my counter because I hadn’t opened a business checking account with my company’s name.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Almost every job I’ve ever had in my life has come as a result of a relationship. So, that’s what is working best now that I’ve launched Signify as well.

I believe in social media, blogging, and other marketing efforts, so I put those into action. And maybe long-term they’ll bring in more cold leads for me. But when it comes down to it, if you’re helpful and doing a good job for the people you’re already connected to, they’ll help spread the word.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge has been making time for my own business. When I have client work staring me in the face, that is what I want to prioritize. After all, they’re paying me for the work. But if I want to achieve the goals I’ve outlined for Signify, I have to set aside the time to work on them too.

My workaround for this problem is that I reserve Mondays for Signify. I fiercely protect this time. Hopefully, I’ll have extra minutes and hours throughout the week to work on my own tasks and goals as well, but when all else fails, I know that I have Mondays.

How do you stay focused?

The best thing I’ve done for my business is getting an accountability partner. We meet every two weeks to check in on our goals, act as a sounding board, provide feedback and offer advice. It’s been invaluable to me and keeps me working on the big projects when it’s so easy to get “admined” to death with daily tasks.

We are actually expanding this to a mastermind in January with a small group of women in similar stages of business, who also all work solo. I have great hopes for all of our progress in 2018.     

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

To be honest, I don’t know anyone who is doing exactly what I’m doing. I know of lots of copywriters and marketers, but none who specialize in working with nonprofits and social enterprises. Also, as I mentioned, is growing by word of mouth, it sort of weeds out any competition for me because a referral gives you instant credibility.

And even when other nonprofits and social enterprises know of another writer or marketer, they gravitate toward me because of my specialization. They don’t have to advise or train me in their industry because I already have that experience, which gives me a short-hand that they appreciate.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

As you can already see, I believe that relational capital is my biggest asset. Volunteering in the community, holding different types of jobs, attending numerous events and conferences, and being helpful to friends enabled me to launch my own business. Never underestimate who you know—and who they may know.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Be flexible. The beautiful thing about startups is that they can navigate twists and turns more easily. Along the same lines, be open to new experiences and opportunities. You just never know where they’ll lead. Signify is not where I thought I was heading, but I saw a need that I could help address, and it’s been such a joy helping my friends succeed.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

Ahhh—only one of each! Hmmm, for my favorite app, I’d have to say Audible. It was a game-changer for me. Oddly, I don’t love to read books even though I love to learn. And I had a long commute for many years. So being able to listen to books was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I would get through 30-50 per year. But now that I work from home, my drive time has greatly diminished so I mostly opt for podcasts these days.

I haven’t ever thought about this, but right now my favorite blog would probably be the Femtrepreneur blog. I love everything they do. Always incredible information, and in such a personal way. That’s super hard to achieve, and they definitely do.

I’m going to cheat a little bit on the book question. J My favorite books for pleasure are the Harry Potter series. As a writer, they overwhelm me with their depth and beauty. My favorite nonfiction book right now is The Dream Giver. It’s impacted significantly on two different occasions in my life and career. And my favorite business book would be The Tipping Point. It’s one of the only books I’ve ever read twice, and I’ve thought of it so many times in my career. But ask me tomorrow and I will probably give you different responses!

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Right now, it would be my podcast app. I love learning in small chunks while I’m on the go, and there are so many amazing options. It’s kinda hard to believe it’s free!

Who is your business role model? Why?

Wow—just narrowing this down to one again, huh? I’d have to say, Christine Caine. She is at the forefront of the modern slavery movement, which is near and dear to my heart. And she’s an author, speaker, and has other events and side projects. I also love having my hands on multiple projects and want to advance the social justice movement. And, all the while, she looks like she’s having a blast!

What do you have planned for the next six months?

It’s been on my mind since before I started my business, but I now have a plan and framework for launching digital products and courses. I want to have these additional income streams, which will also allow me to minimize trading dollars for hours. And I’ve been home too much this year, so I’m ready to start traveling more again. Creating digital products and courses will get more income in the door, and also allow me to help people who don’t have the funds for one-on-one services.

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