Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Annette Thomas. I am the Creator and Founder of The Digital Vibe Podcast and Network. The Digital Vibe Podcast started as a Podcast and evolved to become a Network that comprises, a podcast, a publishing company, a network of affiliates, and a global brand that is networked and heard all around the world!
The Network is comprised of brand clothing, podcast sales, affiliate sales, and publishing book partnerships. The amount of each is as follows as of the year 2020:
- Brand clothing. The current amount of monthly revenue is $5,000 per month.
- Podcast sales (this includes podcast sold on my website as digital goods) is $4,000 per month.
- Affiliate sales. Sales from affiliates which include free ebook downloads, digital platforms (payhip.com), financial affiliation with Curadebt.com, and Shareasale network are currently at $5,000 per month.
- Book Reseller. As a book reseller, I developed my own online brand of books that are sold as any other book retailer would. I own an online bookstore. The amount of income I make per month varies. If I were to come close to the estimation it would be about $6,000 per month.
If you sum up all of these income streams it would be around $20k per month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Wow! Where do I begin! I started this journey as an Internet Marketer because I felt the need to challenge myself and grow myself and something special into something dynamic! I saw the Internet as a way to express myself in a way that I would not have been able to do otherwise. There is no color barrier nor gender. No educational restrictions. No judgment. These were reasons to start and continue as it allows me to be totally authentic and enjoy freedom and independence as never before.
Building a brand is not just about the money that you will make but about who you truly are as a human being. It's about becoming an evolved human being and becoming that best person possible.
The freedom to be able to pursue your dreams without limitations is freedom! No holds barred! The unlimited possibilities and opportunities are incredible! What could I not pursue if I wanted it? A life without limits, no one can stop you! As an avid reader and published writer and author, I can express myself in ways that evoke love and express a passion for what I love. I enjoy being able to take my talent of writing and be able to create something special and then share that with an audience who are interested and seeing how it impacts their lives.
As a person who loves to learning, yes this is one of my secret weapons, the Internet is fodder for me! It's my playground! I enjoy learning and educating myself on what needs to be learned when I need to do so. This dream of mine requires that self-education be the prerequisite of this venture, without it my hope and desires fail. It is because of these reasons that I started what I call "my entrepreneur's journey", as an Internet Entrepreneur, Podcaster, and Publisher.
The moments, I say moments because there were many which bring a recollection of tears to my eyes. The reason I started as an Internet Marketer was a result of individuals making a choice not to hire me. Financially I was at my wit's end. No money other than what my partner was earning which was adequate for us at the time but I wanted to own my own income. For whatever reason (I will not disclose) and with my back against the wall I had to do something and the something I did was take a look at myself and ask myself the ever-present question, "who are you, Annette?" Being able to answer that question honestly gave me the reason and the way to do what I do. No regrets!
By validating myself I validated my products. My podcast, for example, I decided to start 5 years ago because I felt my voice was not being heard enough and I wanted to expand my talents. I saw podcasting as an outlet to be able to speak my truth about who I am and to convey a message, the story of my life because that matters! Over the years as a podcaster, I took what I learned from Internet marketing and business and turned that into a podcast enterprise that includes merchandise, premium podcast episodes, and digital ebooks. So yes, I do have a story to tell and it mattered because I am doing this interview for your audience!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
When I started selling informational products, I used PLR products which are products that are were created by someone else, like a template, as a starting point to how I was going to create my very own products. It gave me “training wheels” so when I was ready to create my own brand of books I felt confident enough in my ability as a writer that I was able to do so with very little difficulty.
As this confidence grew, I developed my own voice and the outcome was incredible. I had my friend design the covers, he's an artist, and I did these books on an ongoing basis. I wrote the content and he designed these incredible covers that really made the content I wrote sell and pop!
As anyone in marketing knows and branding a product with your logo knows, just like good food, you eat with your eyes. The presentation of these books had to speak and evoke something for purchase. If I wanted sales I had to make the first impression count. I did! Before I began to sell these anywhere on the Internet I used (WPS premium) that could take my word documents and convert them into a PDF file, which I was able to brand with my logo and watermarks, which is in its simplest form is an ebook.
The only missing ingredient was the platform. I tried several which are still online today. I used Sellfy, GetDpd, Selz, and E-Junkie, to name a few. I finally decided to go with the company I am partnered with now which is Payhip.com. I find their platform is very easy to use and very low cost, no cost! The skill of an artist takes time to develop just like the skill of a writer. It is an evolving improving skill that you engage with personally and professionally over time like a great voice of a podcaster. It all takes time. No outsourcing is needed when you have two individuals who are as talented as we are.
The laptop you see below is how “the dream” started. As you can see it is beaten up but what would my story be without it.
The incredible book designs you see here were the start of my digital publishing work:
Describe the process of launching the business.
In October (which happens to be my birth month) I attended The Podcast Movement Virtual which is comprised of people all over the world and different backgrounds interested in creating a podcast and networking. I attended so many workshops and made connections with a few. I specifically attended the "Black Conference Workshop" which talked about the podcast industry and what it means to be a "person of color" in this environment.
I listened to stories from men and women who spoke about why they started a podcast and what they saw for the future of Black individuals in this arena. It was then and there that I knew I was doing the right thing at the right time in the right medium, podcasting. I also remembered well how those who attended spoke of the time being now for "women of color". It's no coincidence. It's the right time!
The following month in November was when "the magic" happened. Not only were we (in America) getting a new Presidency, it was historical for a "woman of color" to be in the role of Vice President. That's when restoring and reclaiming meant a great deal to me. My voice mattered. I also changed hosting to WordPress, which happens to be used by the current White House, so I am in great company to be understood. I then saw what I had hoped to see, visitors turn into followers and listening to my podcast from all over the world. I had never experienced that many downloads in my podcasting history and to have that happen and visually see it happening was amazing! History and Karma had not been forgotten and I never doubted it. You truly have to believe in yourself and the validity of your purpose.
I used credit cards as well as my own income to fund what I call my "passion project". I probably spent a total of about $10,000. I made sacrifices along the way. The new shiny car I wanted had to wait. The new home and vacations that come in between had to be prolonged indefinitely. The clothes I wore were not always new. I recycled many. Be prepared for sacrifice. There is always an opportunity cost involved.
Biggest lessons learned. If you are given the responsibility of owning your vision then you are responsible for the decisions you make that will either propel you to success or get you off track. That is why it is so important to be aware of yourself that you don't end up on the wrong side of the road and then have to get back on track as I did. You have to have a core about you that speaks to who you are, what you value, and what your end goals are. The law of attraction is always at work, believe it or not.
The initial website was on Blogger.com. Pretty basic but worked at the time. See Here.
Currently using WordPress. The change really impacted my site statistics.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
As far as what is working to attract customers I would have to say that blogging on the right interface, WordPress, has made an incredible difference! Why? WordPress.com has built into it readers who read each other's blogs and in turn, they like and follow the author of the blog. Once I switched my blog to use a different platform I started to see results.
My podcasts were also increasing by, are you going to believe this, 1000%! In the screenshot, while I was on Podbean, which is a platform I once used, I was getting little or no results. Once I moved my show, it was an instinctive shift, I saw what I had hoped to see. I needed to own my show and all that it involves so I leaped to own it all. I am the Founder, Creator, and Owner of The Digital Vibe Podcast and Network. That is quite an accomplishment that speaks so powerfully of me.
In 2020, I did a massive press release and I don’t believe I got the results in a business sense. My press release was more about a moment in my life in the wake of social consciousness. It was part of me just expressing my personal views and how my brand will not align itself with those immoral values. It compelled me to design my personal vision on how I saw “Unity” in America. I decided to share my brand with others who stand against ism’s (racism, sexism, etc.) of all kinds. It was more of personal satisfaction on stand up for what I have always believed in. Equality for all!
My social media posts have gotten some traction. It has not been my most important emphasis so I am rebooting that part of my strategy so I can reignite and evaluate what is the best strategy and approach for my brand voice. I have always wanted my content to speak positive and I will continue to post content that is positive, inspirational, authentic, and engaging. This won’t be hard because I do like to engage and I want my content to speak!
If I were to sum it all up I would have to say be true to your voice. If you are not it will eventually show in all of your content. My decision to change hosting as a result of platforms and how they were as it relates to leadership and treating their customers. Once I know, I mean really know how a business is and their leadership is if I don't approve I move. That simple. No hesitations. I do not waiver in my commitment to my dreams and the responsibility of making them happen ethically.
Do take a look at the screenshots. As you can see below I was using Podbean at the time and I started with about 600 followers and it took a downward turn, as a result, I removed my podcast from that platform to my own platform on WordPress.
This picture is the one after I switched from Podbean to WordPress with no partnership with other podcast platforms and total ownership!
This is the after. Key in on the number of downloads. Amazing! Use the screenshot magnifier to see the results! This has led to more brand awareness worldwide and more sales!
That to me was the biggest and most important change I did for my brand and the results are sweet. This is what happens when you trust your gut and you remove yourself from what’s not working. A decision like this applies to so many situations. It could be an unproductive employee, A marketing campaign not working, even a partnership that’s no longer aligned with your vision.
Oh yes and the “Unity” Tee.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
As far as the future for my Network, it looks amazing! I continue to do what I do best and that is podcasting and writing. I expect this story to exceed my expectations that I have had for the second year of my 5 year plan which is 2021. My goals were set a few years ago and I am on track to exceed some of those very goals. My podcast downloads already saw an increase as of this year and the readership of my blog will be increasing as I am sure to get visitors to my website as a result of this exposure.
I do not ad spend. I do all of my social media and blog posting so I don't spend too much on what I can do myself. Spending ads on Facebook, not a platform of my choice, is not where I want to be to increase my brand exposure. I am using Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn contacts to increase my exposure. Specifically, on LinkedIn I have been able to connect with individuals and the response has been great! It may take some time to get the results I want but I believe that if you can do it yourself and save money, spend the time to learn, and be patient you will see results. I am very frugal and an intensive learner. That's just the way I am.
Expansion of my Brand is already happening as a result of my podcast. As you know podcasts are global in nature and they are being listened to each day. My show is being listened to by a variety of countries and if you see the screenshot, you will see the audience location. That reminds me, my intentions owning my brand are in part to changing podcast platforms. I want to be able to say that my brand is global and I want it to always be as that, global.
As you can see on the right of the page the geographic reach is global and continuing to grow! Getting the much-needed exposure for The Digital Vibe will increase this tremendously! Thank You, Starter Story!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
In the beginning:
One of my greatest assets is my self-discovery of myself. Never undervalue or underestimate yourself. The mistakes made when I did not do so taught me to become more aware of myself, trust myself, and keep believing in myself. The quote you see here as well as many others kept me focused on who I truly am.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.” Alice Walker
In the beginning. You may have to take on the sole role of becoming the visionary who executes your business. Many solopreneurs have had no other choice to do so. When that happens, in my case it did, I had to rely on my learned skills, personal experiences that forced me to grow, and inspirations from others.
Some may see this as a disadvantage but it became my greatest strength. It taught me to become more aware of myself and dig deep into who I am and what I am capable of. Setbacks are actually one of the best things that can happen in any business endeavor because it teaches you to rely on yourself in case there is no one to catch you if you fall. It teaches resilience and leadership. It gives you a personal sense of self-worth that no one can take away from you. A foundation to build your life upon.
Patience. I had to wait patiently for the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place. You have to be sensitive to timing because one move "out of sync" can take you off the road and you then have to come back to where you should be. If you've heard of synchronicity then you would know what I am speaking of. There is truth in doing the right thing at the right time and being in the right place to receive. You have to be focused.
Self-education. My secret weapon would be my eagerness to learn new things and my habit of research and my discipline of consistency. My desire to become a better version of myself expanded my life in so many ways. It’s the circumstances that I faced that stretched me to accommodate that vision. If I wanted a big dream, and I did, I had to be stretched to become that. It’s that willingness to stay on course, never waiver, and take each day by day. My journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
Lastly, the "comfort zone" is neither conducive of beneficial for the long-term growth of any business. If you remain in what's not working with no desire to change then you will definitely assure yourself no success.
Check out my video!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For blogging and writing, WordPress and Blogger. I use them both because one has different functionality from the other. For example, WordPress I use because it allows me to get better search capabilities as compared to Blogger. WordPress is better geared for writers and editors.
Blogger is not without its benefits. Blogger was one of the first platforms I used when I started writing so I must give Blogger its props. Blogger was there for me to use when I could not afford to pay for WordPress. Blogger may have been a cheap way to go at the time but as innovative as I am, I was able to manipulate the themes and layouts to adjust them to what I needed. Blogger will always be a "go-to" platform when you have nothing else and costs are too high.
For my digital goods, I have tried a few. The platform I use now is Payhip. With Payhip you pay only 5% to use and your Stripe or Paypal fee. With those two fees combined, you are netting 93% of each sale you make.
For my podcast, I use a Samson G-Tack Pro microphone, Epidemic Sound, and/or YouTube music when I need it, Anchor podcast hosting to edit the podcast, and WordPress podcast hosting for the podcast hosting itself.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Do What You Love and The Money Will Follow, by Marsha Sinetar. Why? The book is a spiritual journey into becoming who you are. It is a story or should I say a book that allows you to look at your life, access it, and take the journey of where you are right now to where you want to be. It brings out the best, or worse in who you are. I suggest this as one of my best first books because as long as you are a human being, you are spirit and you have a purpose. It is the reader’s job to find out what that purpose is.
Success Principles by Jack Canfield. Why? If you want money success without personal success you have no success at all. This book lays out foundational principles that you are to follow if you want to become successful in your business and personal life. Most people focus on the business side of the equation and miss out on the other part which is your personal development. They both go hand in hand if you want long-term growth and success.
Podcast. If I were to be specific. “Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations” made me aware of myself.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
If I were to suggest anything to entrepreneurs who are just starting they would be vast. Let me be specific. I would have to say read the books I suggest as well as some of the books I sell digitally on my website. These are books and podcasts that are filled with experience, knowledge, and expertise. Then I would suggest subscribing and listen to my podcast, "Conversations With Annette", these are archived podcasts that I have done over the past several years and I share much of my heartaches, failures, and successes as authentic as I can be.
My advice apart from my products would be to ask yourself the tough questions and be honest with yourself. Don’t just say, “I want to make “x” amount of dollars”, make it more personal than that by asking yourself one simple question. Why? Why do I want this? What do I hope to achieve by doing so? Do I want to impact the world and change it or do I want to change my world with no impact? What kind of legacy do I want to leave for myself, my children, my community. All of these are the tough questions you have to ask yourself. Be honest with yourself. The more honest you are with yourself the more you put yourself in a position to BECOME authentic, vulnerable, transparent, and human. You want to be able to have a relatable human side to your business.
Build a brand and not a business. Why? Building a brand is more complex and involves you as a whole person. There is a caveat: to be able to build a brand you have to become something, a better version of your former self. Building a brand is not just about the money that you will make but about who you truly are as a human being. It's about becoming an evolved human being and becoming that best person possible. I started as a writer and took that talent to become a great writer. I love to write. I would only be a great blogger if I expanded my capacity to know myself and express myself. Having a business is just that, having a business. It has no substance. Anyone can start a business that is here today and gone tomorrow. The businesses that last longer are brands. Take a look at Nike.
Lastly, the school of “hard knocks”. Allow yourself to fall not fail. When you fall, learn, and get back up you are never a failure. You are a failure when you decide that you no longer have the power or inclination to do something about your present situation.
Lastly, oh I said that already. Visit my conversations on my website!
Where can we go to learn more?
- Listen to my newly launched podcast "15 Minutes On Wealth" Insight and Wisdom that will change Your Life!
Oh let me mention my much awaited book that includes this interview! A special pricing for those of you who subscribe to Starter Story. My way of saying thank you so much for reading!
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