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When it comes to being a successful brand or business today, it's critical you have basic online marketing skills. But with so many tools and platforms available, how do you know what skills will be most helpful? Here are the four top skills you should have to make your business a success.

1). Facebook Advertising - Having a branded page is no longer enough. If you'd like to generate interest, traffic, and even sales to your website, you should know how to create an ad, refine your target audience, and how to run split tests to determine which ad generates the best response.

As someone who uses advertising regularly for my own businesses as well as my clients' businesses, I can tell which ad/offer will perform the best after about 200 clicks (or $150.00 ad spend). This is a great marketing tactic for brands that are on a low budget.

2). Social Media Marketing - If you don't understand social media marketing and don't have a strategy in place for your brand or business, then it's going to be difficult for you to build your name.,, and accounts are must-haves for any visual business. Not only are they free to join, they're great ways to connect with prospective and existing customers, approach influencers, and increase search engine visibility.

3). Email Marketing - Although many marketing experts say email marketing is "dead", it's not. This strategy is an effective and low-cost way to generate additional revenue.

Running new promotions or product announcements is also a great way to stay in touch with your customers. You might also want to consider adding a "top tips" or editorial-like section to your emails. Check out the and email newsletters for ideas. Also, make sure your emails are optimized for smartphone and tablets.

4). Video - Video marketing has become a huge part of the digital space today. Brands such as and have mastered video marketing and you should too.

However, if you're a startup, then your brand most likely doesn't have the resources to allocate to commercial video production. Luckily, and allow you to create real videos from your smartphone. These platforms are perfect for behind-the-scenes runway shows and photo shoots.


Q&A with Kismet Cosmetics Founder, Caitlin Picou

Kismet Cosmetics

Today's interview is with Caitlin Picou, founder of Kismet Cosmetics. Here is what she had to say about launching and growing a successful beauty business, despite the competition.

1). Can you tell our readers about your background?

I have been developing products in the beauty industry for over eight years now. I began creating hair care products, and then made the switch to creating my own cosmetics line and becoming a licensed makeup artist. And since I started my company four years ago, I have grown it to have five employees and have been featured on CNBC's Billion Dollar Buyer

2). What inspired you to start your business? 

My father was a major influence on me and my want to go into business for myself. My father believed in entrepreneurship and small businesses. He passed away unexpectedly in April of 2012, and this pushed me further into my drive for my own brand. By July of 2013, I had developed and launched my first product. 

3). Where is your business based?

Kismet is based out of my hometown of Covington, LA. It is a suburb just north of New Orleans. 

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

I had developed many contacts throughout my career, so once I had the product idea in my head, I reached out to a few friends I had made to see if they could point me in the right direction of a manufacturer. I knew I wanted to launch a product that wasn't typical. It had to be eye-catching and create a dialogue. So I went with Opulent, a body bronzing lotion that doesn't contain DHA like self-tanners. Some have called it 'Liquid Gold'

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

Obviously, the TV show skyrocketed us into a totally different category. But pre-television, I built my brand by getting out there and doing as many pop-up events as possible. From New Orleans Fashion Week to reaching out to brick-and-mortar stores, I slowly built my following by getting in front of people, social media, and quality products. 

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

My biggest challenge is probably myself. The self-doubt that enters your head when you are in such a highly competitive market is probably the biggest thing that hinders me from moving forward. But this comes with the territory of owning a business. The dangerous rabbit-hole that makes it worse is social media. So don't compare yourself, stay focused on your goals. 

7). How do you stay focused?

These days it is extremely challenging. I am a new mother to a beautiful daughter, Ruby James. So yes, she comes with me to work everyday. And I actually learned I was pregnant the week before we started filming the TV show. So by the time it aired, I was 7 months pregnant and life was changing personally and business-wise.

But my biggest tool is time-management. I schedule out certain blocks of the day for calls, emails, and business development. Plus I have a to-do list notebook that never ends. 

8). How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

This is an extremely competitive market. Our key point-of-difference is our distribution method. We make it possible for smaller boutiques and salons to carry our cosmetics line. We also let our products speak for themselves. The quality is there. And that keeps customers coming back for more. 

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

I would have to say our Pop-Up strategy has been key to growing the brand. Whenever a new store carries us, we set a date to have an in-store pop-up. The store owners can invite their favorite customers, and we can pamper them, inform them about the product, and have them leave with some in hand. The key is getting people to try it. Once they do, they love it!

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

Ask for advice. Seriously, don't hesitate to reach out to other inspiring entrepreneurs. Odds are they have been in your exact same shoes and have advice for you. Experience is priceless in this industry. But don't be afraid to learn. I am learning new stuff every day. 

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

I am a big fan of podcasts. I can listen to them while I work. Currently, I am a huge fan of Boss Girl Creative, while this is focused more on the business of being a blogger, it has tons of useful tips for a business owner. As far as a book, does an audio book count? I am really into 'Grace Not Perfection' by Emily Ley. Since having my daughter, it has been an adjustment of expectations. And this book helps me through. 

12). What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Asana has been a great resource for me with my growing team. It keeps tasks and to-do lists all in one spot. Also, don't even underestimate the power of YouTube. I am pretty sure that is how I taught myself Photoshop, Quickbooks, Photography and even how to create YouTube videos. 

13). Who is your business role model? Why? 

Kendra Scott is a 'Goals' brand and person I look up to very much. She started with hats at a mall kiosk and has built this boutique-brand that has taken over. She did it with class and originality. And I just want Kismet to be to cosmetics like Kendra is to jewelry. 

14). What do you have planned for the next six months? 

The next six months are our busiest time of year. We are working on a lot of gift items and sets, along with TONS of new products. Plus, I have an exciting partnership that I am ironing out with this major product that will disrupt the beauty world. Hoping to announce it very soon. We are also focusing on Dallas next for our next big market to open up. We like to spend about six months in a new city to really get to know and meet the consumers. 

15). How can our readers connect with you? 

As with most brands, we are available on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, SnapChat and Twitter with the handle @kismetcosmetics. Of course, you can learn more about the brand, and even send us a selfie and we will help you pick the right lipstick color, from our website

I have worked with multiple brands, people, and bloggers and have built real connections to grow the brand. For example, I develop lip colors for collegiate dance teams, LSU, WVU, and SLU. That has been a really fun partnership and hope to continue to grow this part of my brand over the coming years. I have also partnered with local Kendra Scott stores to host beauty nights. And in regards to bloggers, this has been a hard territory, because so many want a lot of money just to post one time on one social media outlet. I totally get it. But I look more for bloggers who truly love the brand. We build a partnership and they get all of our products plus their own affiliate links. But I want them to truly embody and believe in what I am doing. So you won't ever find me paying a blogger to talk about us. If they do, it is simply because they love Kismet. 

Q&A with Sun Protection Entrepreneur, Casey Bryden

Casey Bryden

Today, I finally had the opportunity to chat with entrepreneur Casey Bryden of Sunbella, a brand of premium sun protection umbrellas (which comes at the perfect time now that summer is here in full swing). And here's what she had to say! 

1). Please tell our readers about your background. 

I have a degree in marketing and management and began my career in research and analysis, which gave me an appreciation for the value of statistics and market research as a foundation for business decisions.  Just prior to starting my own business, I worked as Campaign Manager at Tourism Western Australia, managing multi-million dollar campaigns and working with some of Australia's best marketing agencies. 

I live in Perth in Western Australia, with my husband and two children.  Perth is the sunniest capital in Australia, so we spend much of our free time enjoying the outdoors, either camping or at the beach.  As a result of our sunny, outdoor lifestyle, Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, which is what led my mom and me to start our business, Sunbella.

We design and manufacture personal sun umbrellas. We aim to help women feel beautiful, and stay beautiful, by providing them with elegant and effective sun protection.

2). Why did you start your business? 

Jillian (Sunbella Co-founder) is a clinical nurse who spent years spent witnessing and treating the long-term effects of UV exposure. She heard firsthand from frustrated skin cancer sufferers who avoided sun-safety because existing products compromised their style or gave them hat-hair. At just 32 years old, I have lost count of how many moles I’ve had to have removed from my body - I think it is around 13. 

A global search unearthed a gap in the market for a modern sun umbrella with appropriate UV protection, so we set out to create one.  Together, we have developed a range of award-winning UPF50+ parasols that offer effective and attractive sun protection for every occasion. 

Our designs are sleek and modern iterations of the traditional sun umbrella that enhance a woman’s style, rather than overpower it. Signature wind-vents allow the breeze to dissipate through the center. The unique straight canopy can be angled, allowing the wind to pass across rather than flip it inside out and light-weight and high-quality materials ensure comfort and convenience.

Sunbella won the 2015 AusMumpreneur Business Excellence, the 2015 Stirling Micro-Business Award and, most recently, a Sunbella parasol was gifted to The Duchess of Cornwall by the State of Western Australia.

3). What market does your business serve? 

Broadly, our customers are women who want, or need, to protect their skin. Their motivations range from short-term protection against sunburn to long-term prevention of premature aging, aversions to sunscreens, or a dislike of hat hair, photosensitivity due to medications or illness, through to those that have been directly or indirectly affected by skin cancer.

They use their sun umbrella daily, either on the commute to work, walking the kids to school, taking the dog to the park, or going to the beach or local cafe. They also use their sun umbrella for special events such as weddings, polo, races, celebrations, or even official ceremonial duties as it allows them to remain unflustered throughout the day and maintain their look into the evening. 

We sell online and through retailers. We also offer bespoke branded parasols for corporate clients as well as hire packages for weddings.  

Our products are unique worldwide, which has been proven by our international clientele, including the One and Only Resort in the Maldives, our stockist in Mauritius, and regular sales to the UK, Canada, and the United States - particularly to California, Florida, and New York.

All of our sun umbrellas are certified to UPF50+ in accordance with AS/NZS 4399:1996 by the Australian Radiation and Nuclear Protection Authority. The tightly-woven fabrics are further enhanced with a UV-blocker.  Our designs make it possible for women to protect their skin and feel elegant at the same time.

4). What's the largest challenge you've encountered as a business owner? 

Our greatest challenge has been overcoming the stigma associated with using an umbrella for sun protection, and simultaneously, the perception that you can’t be sun-smart and look good at the same time. 

To overcome this, we’ve avoided advertising (telling) and have chosen to position our product as a high-end fashion accessory through collaborations and third-party referrals.  Our strategic, below-the-line marketing activities focus on PR and social media, to demonstrate to women that a Sunbella parasol negates these barriers, allowing them to be sun smart and stylish at the same time. 

This has included actively partnering with fashion bloggers and local labels as well as our own brand ambassador program. Our sun safe and stylish message comes from well-respected and stylish women from across Australia, rather than, say, an ad telling people that they should buy a Sunbella. This gives our product credibility, improves our brand awareness and integrity, and has seen our sales grow by 200% year on year for the last six years.

One example of how third party referrals have worked for us occurred in 2015 when we worked with the state Government to arrange for a custom-made Sunbella to be gifted by the State to The Duchess of Cornwall on the Royal Visit to Perth. The Duchess used the Sunbella throughout her visit and this resulted in over $20,000 worth of sales in a two-week period. 

5). What's your best piece of business advice? 

Seek out other entrepreneurs who are on a similar journey, and travel the road with them. 

Starting your own business is daunting and, particularly in the first few years, there were many occasions when we felt that we were pioneering uncharted territory. However, over the last few years, we have built friendships with incredible, inspiring businesswomen from across the country. And despite us being in a variety of industries, from fashion, food, charities, wellness, services, etc, our journeys are very similar. 

There is much that we can do and learn from each other.  By sharing the things that we have learned (be that about leveraging partnerships, branding, pricing, book-keeping, importing, SEM, shipping, wholesaling, managing social media, website design, inventory management, etc.,) either through our mistakes or our wins, we all grow together exponentially.

6). How do you like to relax? 

Managing a business, raising a six-year-old and a three-year-old, and running a household has its challenges. My computer lives on the kitchen bench and, while flexible working hours has its advantages for a young family, it can make it difficult to switch off - it’s after 10 PM as I write this.

My relaxation comes through exercise. I take 30 minutes every day to either run, cross train, HIIT, or cycle. I’m currently three months into a #30for365 challenge; 30 minutes of exercise every day for a year. I completed this challenge back in 2015 and found that I was happier, more productive, and more content. Plus I love a challenge!

To pick up a Sunbella or learn more about Casey, visit Amazon or follow the brand on: