135 The Legal Fine Print: Entrepreneur and Lawyer Rachel Brenke on How to Protect Your Business Success
Rachel Brenke is a lawyer turned entrepreneur whose passion is to help creative entrepreneurs leverage their passion with legal protection they need to thrive – from contracts and business formation to intellectual property law. Host of the popular Business Bites podcast, Rachel is a mom of 5, cancer survivor, Team USA athlete, and massive social media influencer. We talk about the mindset and mojo you need to succeed in this inspiring episode.
Melinda Wittstock: Rachel, welcome to Wings.
Rachel Brenke: Hey! Thanks for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s great to have you on and I’m always intrigued by lawyers who become entrepreneurs because to me it seems like a contradiction in terms, I’m sorry.
Rachel Brenke: No, I agree. I hear you. As I was an entrepreneur first and went the law route to kind of add to my toolbox, so to speak, and then I’ve continued entrepreneurship obviously, but even still, I’m not your typical attorney whatsoever.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s so interesting. But I love the fact that you’re applying entrepreneurship to the law, because I think that there’s a lot of interesting opportunities for it to be disrupted and transformed and I think that’s part of where you’re going and what you’re able to do. Talk to me a little bit about your vision, in terms of how you see that all playing out.
Rachel Brenke: Yeah so the thing is I noticed that there was this big gap in the market. Now, let me preface that by saying this gap came apparent back in the MySpace days. This was not the Facebook onslaught of blogs and articles and stuff that are available now. Back then it was, you know, you didn’t have this freemium type model stuff. And so information was severely locked down or you just couldn’t relatively understand it and I realized when setting up my own businesses, non-low related, at the time, that there was a huge gap of information. I was seeking out stuff and I didn’t know what I didn’t know and it was confusing, so this is why I completely understand when entrepreneurs come to me like “Help me!”, I’m like “Yes, I was there, I totally get it”.
And that’s kind of why I developed the different niche blogs that I have. I’ve tapped into markets that I’ve actively worked as an entrepreneur myself, so I’m not just an attorney that’s speaking at these different entrepreneurs, I’ve actively been in the shoes of the person that’s going to be reading and understanding the legal information that I’m giving them in hopefully a very consumable and easy to understand format. That, I’m just tackling every industry that I can at a time. I’ve got three different ones right now that I’m focused upon and onward upward and we’ll see if I keep moving into other ones. I definitely enjoy it, not a typical attorney.
I get to work with fun entrepreneurs that get to push me, grow me, ask me questions. I get to do the same thing to them. I am definitely taking advantage of this perspective that I was one of the first that came out doing this on the web. I’m obviously not one of the only ones now, there’s a plethora of people that are doing it. But I set myself apart from what I just said. About how I have actively been in, I understand the pain points, I know the objections that a specific entrepreneur is going to face from their audience or their customers and we get to have a really good business strategy discussion and planning discussion, sprinkled with the legal elements.
Rachel Brenke: It’s not this old school mentality, like you think when you walk into a lawyer’s office, this mahogany desk and I take your order, you know you tell me what you need and I do it. And I’m actually really excited ’cause I see many other lawyers are starting to pick up on this kind of approach that I have prided myself on as well, and I think it’s just going to serve entrepreneurs in such a really good capacity. So those of you listening that are just getting into this or still trying to get your legal legs under you to make everything is protected. You’re hitting this at a really great time in the online sphere, because the information is accessible, you have your pick of people to work from, so be thankful and be lucky. When I first started out, it was pretty frustrating.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, no, it really is. I think as a technology entrepreneur when you’re thinking “Oh god, how do I protect my IP” and then you’ve got all the other stuff around like your cap table and like other stuff yet again, I mean there’s contracts. There’s so many different needs and a lot of them, you don’t necessarily know. And I think one of the things that a lot of entrepreneurs do, is when we start businesses, we don’t really know, like there are hypotheses, you don’t really know necessarily. Especially if it’s really in a bit of like a completely new category or a swing for the fence kind of thing, you think “Well, you know what, I’m going to do lean start up and I’m going to defer all these legal things until later”, but that can be a mistake. So it’s hard to know which ones you absolutely have to lock down before you start and which ones you can defer. Do you have any insight or any advice on that?
Rachel Brenke: Yeah I mean, so I’m glad you brought that up because that’s kind of one of the perspectives that are, I also own a law firm with my partner, and this is one of the things we talk about extensively with our clients and with one another is that we have a real appreciate and understanding for lean startup, bootstrapping type mentality and so we’re able to provide advisements based on what someone’s goals and plans are, but also knowing within the confines of their legal investment of what’s available at that time. ‘Cause I understand that not everyone has the cash to not be able to do it.
Which is how I’ve come about doing what I’m doing. But they also want a return investment, like you just said. Liens start up, and bootstrapping mentality. But this one example that I have and I don’t necessarily share this to strike fear in y’all’s hearts, but I hope it does open your eyes a bit. We had a client come into us, let’s say in January, and they had coupled together their own purchase terms, their own services contract and they had found things off the internet, didn’t really verify the source, kind of tried to write it all together, and said “Will you review this for me?”, and I said “Yeah sure, it’s going to be a couple of hours so about $600.”, not that big of an investment. I mean it is for some, but you guys will see here in a second it’s not-
: It’s big for some, you guys will see here in a second, it’s not that big of an investment as a security measure. Because not eight months later that same individual was being sued by one other customer and the suit was claiming 8000 dollars. Luckily, because we had a really good attorney, me, not that I’m not humble or anything. But, I was able to get the 8000 dollar claim taken off the table, in court, so they didn’t have to pay it to the client. They ended up spending 7500 dollars in legal fees in order to do that.
: All of that could have been avoided if my clients had taken the steps to have the proper contracts reviewed and implemented because not just the 7500 dollars that they ended up spending to have to defend themselves, they also ended up spending that 600 dollars anyway, later, in order to revise the contract. Not counting all the time and energy that they had to spend with me on the phone or email dealing with this. That entrepreneur was not being able to put into their business at that point.
: So, there’s a way … I guess what I’m trying to say, guys, is get yourself into protection with your business formation and your contracts and look at it as an investment in insurance and protection. I don’t mean insurance, insurance is good to have too, but in ensuring that you’re going to be able to stay focused on your business. Because that client lost way more than even the numbers I gave you. They lost the time and money that they could have put into their business.
Its disappointing because it’s stuff that is relatively easy to do. I say this, not as a lawyer, I say this an entrepreneur myself. As a mother of five, as a spouse, as someone who wants to continue growing my businesses. I’ve invested a lot of time in it. I don’t want it just be, poof, gone one day. If you really value what you’re doing you need to reinvest whatever money you can into the legal protection side.
: When I started my businesses, many moons ago, I didn’t have cash laying around to do this. I waited tables in the evenings, went around my house and I found stuff and did yard sales and reinvested into the business. So it’s hard for me … I have sympathy when entrepreneurs say, “Well, I can’t afford X, Y, and Z.” And, its hard for me to swallow that because I know what the end result could be and I also know that I did it.
I know everyone’s life circumstances are different. I was doing this also during time all the cancer stuff was going. The cancer was actually is what kicked off my whole entrepreneurship journey. That was a complete rabbit trail at that point. I guess what I’m saying is, guys, please understand that I’m not saying this as a lawyer. I’m saying this as an entrepreneur, one of you.
I get sad when I see businesses that go under because they can’t sustain themselves when an issue happens because it’s not “if” an issues going to happen, it’s “when” it happens. It’s going to happen.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, and so there are so many different things that I want to pick up on there. But, there’s one that I can’t let drop. You survived cancer, you had cancer 11 years ago and you said that it prompted you to become an entrepreneur.
So, we’re going to get back to some of this legal stuff but let’s just go there because, gosh. My goodness, I am so grateful that you are here and you’re a mom of five and you do all this great stuff in the world. So, what was it like to go through that? What did it teach you? And, why did it spark your entrepreneurial career?
Rachel Brenke: You know, before I answer all of that, I want to say upfront. I think it’s easy for people to hear, “Oh, cancer survivors, they have this new lease on life. Everything is through rosy glasses for the rest of their life.” No, I still become ungrateful, I’ve become complacent. I have to remind myself that I’ve been given a second chance which I think is a little easier when in looking at my life now is because of the cancer. Not that I’m appreciative that I had cancer, I’m appreciative I got cured from it. When I was going through that there were only two major things that really bothered me. That really tore my heart out.
The first, we only had one kid at the time. The first was this idea that my son was going to grow up without a mother or calling someone else mom. That destroyed my heart and I told myself, “Get through this, I’m going to try to be as present him as possible.” What I didn’t know is I’d end up with four more.
The second thing that I learned out of the cancer too is that I didn’t want to spend my life fulfilling the dreams, goals and pockets of somebody else. I wanted to do that for myself and I also wanted to be able to help other moms or other women. It could be men too, but, really focus on moms in my business to be able to do the same thing. To be on the ground floor to make an impact through them and help them have a piece of entrepreneurship. That’s how all this kind of came about.
I started with an apparel store, actually, which is so funny because I’m not fashionable whatsoever. So, I’m not really sure. I just enjoyed it and it was an opportunity at the time. Yeah, I just … I don’t want to fit into the 9 to 5 box. I want to be here with my kids, I’ve been given this second chance and I took the steps I mentioned before. We didn’t have the money but I just waited tables in the evenings and on the weekends. Worked long hours doing that, worked the entrepreneurship during the day when I wasn’t in treatments or with my son.
Yeah, it sounds easy, of course; this was many years ago.
Melinda Wittstock: It doesn’t sound easy.
Rachel Brenke: I’m so nonchalant about it now because it’s been so long. It was very difficult.
Melinda Wittstock: It would of had to have been. I mean the fact that not only is your body exhausted because you were fighting something. But, you’re waiting tables which is, you know, exhausting even for a healthy person. Then, meanwhile, you’ve got kids and you’ve got a man. That’s a lot.
Rachel Brenke: But you know what the thing is? You don’t know what you can do until you have no choice. And, I always say you don’t know what you can do until it’s sick or swim time. Well, you either sick or you swim and so I’ve swam and that has been repeatedly through my life.
We had the cancer and then my husband was deployed multiple times to Iraq. I’ve approached it the same way each time. You got to do or you’re going to sink. I feel like entrepreneurship is super like that too. So, I definitely attribute, that was a big turning point in my life. I think it taught me a lot of great lessons that I’m happy to have been afforded the lessons so that I can try to impart them on other entrepreneurs.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, so I think one of the beauties of entrepreneurship really is just being true to yourself. Figuring out what actually is really important to you. It is really a way that you can create your own life rather than having one imposed on you.
Rachel Brenke: You know it’s so funny because I think that as entrepreneurs now we’re plagued with podcasts, webinars, blog posts and all this. You hear, “Know your why, this and that.” And it just comes to the point that everyone is shouting it so it almost sounds cliché. Take it basically and go, “Why am I doing this?”
I’m always reminded by the why when I talk to other lawyers or I talk to people I went to school with and their unhappy in the careers they’re in. They’re not seeing their kids, they’re schlepping in commuting, and they’re not feeling ownership or even valued in the position they’re in. I’m not saying take joy in what your friends or family members are going through, but it’s definitely in those moments when I am like, “Gosh, I love entrepreneurship.” And I’m so thankful that I have the attitude of sink or swim. Let’s just swim this sucker out.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative), exactly. And so, how do you manage with five kids? How old is the oldest, how young is the youngest?
Rachel Brenke: My oldest is twelve, my youngest is three. I have a really good support system. My husband’s super involved. We do have a caregiver. I don’t like to use the term nanny because then people think, “Rich family going on vacations and never watch my kids.” She works typical hours, they go to school. I’m still super involved because my office is two miles from the house if I go there. Most of the time I’m at home. I have a really good team [inaudible 00:29:02], businesses that help me, help keep me on track.
Rachel Brenke: But, everything is schedules. Everything is very tightly scheduled so that I know what brand I’m working on, what day, what day’s I’m doing calls. I really attribute a lot … my success and trajectory could not have happened without having these kind of supports and intentional goal steps and scheduling to get there.
Rachel Brenke: In the beginning, I was just trying to do it all, where all the hats. It was like throwing spaghetti noodles at a wall and kind of seeing what actually stuck. When it finally got to point that I was getting burn outs, my family was unhappy because they hardly saw me, which completely violated the whole reason that I went into entrepreneurship in the first place. It’s when I realized I need to start protecting my time, protecting who I am, focusing on why I’m doing this.
Rachel Brenke: It’s not easy all the time, sounds easy for me to say on here. I still have to remind myself sometimes. Sometimes my husband has to be like, “Yo, we haven’t seen you for a couple weeks.” So, we really try to work together on scheduling to have a lunch, or if I’m traveling for speaking events. Keeping the family and the teams super involved and allowing them to have input is what, I think, really results in the success of the brands for us together. I’m a big proponent of ownership. While I’m obviously the boss so I get the end say in what we do on the business side, I want them to be able to speak up and say we feel this X, Y, and Z. I’m an open door and we are a team. I’m the mouthpiece but we are a team together and I try to do the same thing with the family as well.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s wonderful. I think in an entrepreneur’s life, the more you can involve other people, the better. Or, at least be around people who get you because otherwise it’s very isolating. Right? It can be tricky for spouses as well, so to be with someone who actually gets you and supports you in your entrepreneurial journey is-
Rachel Brenke: We don’t work together, yes. We don’t work together, we tried that and we were like, “No, we’d rather stay married.”
Melinda Wittstock: Okay.
Rachel Brenke: We have separation of church and state. He has his own business stuff, I have my own. We still ping things off of each other and talk about our days. You said something about having people that get you and that has been one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned that helpful because management is kind of a weak point of mine.
What’s been helpful in developing my teams is having people that get me and the majority of my team members have been audience members. They’re people that have followed me online, they’ve interacted with me. My right hand, Pam, she’s amazing, she just gets me. She knows my voice, she knows what makes me tick, she knows what I need. She’s been with me almost since the very beginning and she was in the audience. Her loyalty, that’s what I’m trying to get at. Loyalty is really important on a team. I feel like you can train people to update word pass plug ins, train people to use Can, you know. There’s some tasks, obviously, that they need to come to table with. But, if you’re looking to have a support system and a team to help you grow if you get to that point, it’s really important you focus.
Like we said, having people that are loyal, who ‘get’ you. Because, the personal side of business is what will make or break a business. If we don’t get along well, we’re not going to be a good team. We’re going to end up having to break off, one gets fired, I have to hire someone new. I have to start all over. It’s the heart, the heart is really what’s most important. I think most tasks can be taught, you can’t teach people to be loyal. You can develop loyalty, but you can’t teach them to be loyal.
Yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve taken away from looking at my support systems. Yes, I have a good support in my husband and my personal life but also from the team side. They get me and they are protective of me and I think it’s because we have developed a family-based, team-based culture together.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s really wonderful and so important. I think often women do fall into the trap of trying to do it all, right? And when we think about … we were talking about time earlier and how valuable time is. So, say for instance, what’s the value of me creating new intellectual property for my business or a whole new revenue stream or whatever. What’s my hourly rate for that relative to my hourly rate doing the laundry or shopping or some of the domestic things that we feel we should be doing in a way, right? Or other people around us make us maybe, our neighbors, our friends or family think, “What makes you think you’re so important that you have help doing that?”
Melinda Wittstock: Right?
Rachel Brenke: You start to feel a judgment, you start to feel shame and it’s this whole cycle. One of the very first things that I outsourced … I was a solo-preneur for a really long time because I was in this trap that I had to do it all and I didn’t have the money at the time to invest in other people. When I did get the money and made the intentional goals to get there, the very first thing that I outsourced was cleaning the house. Because I was looking at it and going, “Oh, I’m spending six to eight hours to clean, plus laundry, put that away. Yada, yada.” And I was thinking how much could I have made with a client in that time or how many appearances could I have made through webinar or podcast, you know, and shared information and gotten new clients in.
When I did the numbers, you tell people this, especially the entrepreneurs, they go, “Oh, that makes sense.” But, when they don’t have any concept of that, they kind of have this judgmental, “Oh, you have a maid?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I have a maid but it’s out of survival.” It’s not because I’m sitting down eating Bonbons.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly, that’s exactly right. It’s really about understanding leverage.
The point that really drove it home for me was when one of my mentors and investor in my company had me calendarize everything. So, literally put into my calendar the time I spend driving my kids. Or, you know, my miracle morning routines like okay, I’m up at this time and so how long’s it take me to do my meditation? How long does it take me to this, this and that? How long’s it take me to cook dinner for the kids? All those kinds of things. And now you start to see what you’re available work hours actually are.
We think we’re working eight or ten-hour days, we’re actually not working all of that time. I began to realize that actually working less but really smart and not having interruptions made me a whole load more efficient and also forced me to concentrate on the things that only I could do and the things that were really vital for the business. The most important things, the things that were the highest leverage, do those first.
Rachel Brenke: You know, that’s so true and one of the exercises that I always walk my business consultant clients through, and I can’t take full credit, I learned this in law school. Because typical lawyers bill to like a quarter of the hour or whatever, and so I had them go through and carry a piece of paper around for two or three days of the business week and write down every task they’re doing at the time and how long it took. It’s much like when you’re trying to lose weight and you’re like, “I only had a handful of Starburst.” And then, when you actually count it and plug it into your MyFitnessPal, you had the entire bag.
It makes you realize that’s why I’m not losing weight and the same thing is for carrying around the piece of paper. You then realize, huh, I spent 25 minutes looking at cat videos on Facebook when I could have been creating something new or following up with clients. It really is very revealing on where your time sucks away.
And like you said too, being purposeful about what the tasks are. I do batch processing, so I do a whole bunch of podcast recording at one time, all my blog post writing the first week of every quarter. Same with email, newsletters and that allows me to be freed up for the rest of the quarter for other tasks.
But, even more focused than that, every day is committed to a certain brand, a certain business of mine. The morning are either committed to phone calls or podcast interviews. It depends on the day and everything’s color coded and its really about … it keeps me on tasks, it lets my team know what I am doing and it keeps the train trucking along forward. It’s too easy in the beginning when you’re so overwhelmed with the things you have to do that you just get so paralyzed and you don’t do it. You become extremely ineffective and then you get frustrated and it’s just a vicious cycle.
Melinda Wittstock: It really is, especially if you try to pivot between things, like if you’re getting interrupted all the time. So, I like how you’ve done that. I think I’m really intrigued. I’m completely borrowing that from you, this idea of doing all your content at the beginning of each quarter.
So, what, you just hunker down for a week and get it all done? All the videos, all the … because we have to produce so much of this.
Rachel Brenke: I’ll be honest. I would like to say that this was some genius revelation, and it kind of was, but it rose out of the fact that I hate having to do my hair and makeup. So, if I know I’m going to record it’s easier for me to just commit to an entire week of doing it as opposed to figuring, “Oh, Tuesday, this week, I got to get dressed or this week I got to do that.”
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, gosh, I love it. No, I’m especially going to steal that now because that’s great. I can shlub around for the whole quarter except for one week where I have to have perfectly blow-dried hair and makeup and all that. Yeah, that’s a good … I’m in.
That’s sounds like a really good idea.
Rachel Brenke: My right hand, Pam, one of the things that we started doing to help alleviate my stress was, when she helps me get my schedule together because, let’s be honest, she’s the real boss. There’s no way I would have anything together because I have so much going on. We have color coded and little notes and she’ll say, “Need to be camera ready.” And she’ll write, “Yes, must wear a bra.”, or something like that for the event. What is expected of me, and it’s way more efficient than me having to dig through emails and figure out what’s going on. I know that day that I can’t just plop down on a seat and have a podcast. I actually got to add 20 or 30 minutes on the front end to get ready for it.
Melinda Wittstock: That was the other thing that I learned about, you know, from my mentor, about the calendar. We put things in our calendar, like meeting, but the prep time and the follow up time and all of those sorts of things. That’s why a lot of women … and I used to be like this. I used-
A lot of women, and I know I used to be like this, I used to be like a list person, where I’d put all these things down on a list.
Rachel Brenke: Yes. Me too.
Melinda Wittstock: And then I’d feel really devastated when I didn’t get through all the stuff. The reason I didn’t is because I wasn’t really understanding all the other things that I was doing that was invisible, right? I’ve switched around. Now it’s very different, I set intentions in the morning for the results that I want.
Rachel Brenke: Good.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s a completely different way. Rather than making it a task-based thing that turns me into a human doing, I can be a human being, by like, in the morning meditation, saying things like, you know, asking for inspiration, asking for the ability to recognize that and act on that inspiration and to focus on the things that are most important and really thinking, what would make today great? What am I grateful for and what will I be really grateful for by the end of the day, and then that really helps me figure out how I should use my time.
I’m getting, I’m really analytic, but I’m getting more and more intuitive and more and more into my right brain about how I organize that, and the more I do, the more at ease and the more stuff manifests, magical.
Rachel Brenke: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And also, paying attention to how your body responds when you’re doing certain tasks, that was a big for me, because it’s easy for many business consultants and coaches, and I am raising my hand on this one too, because I was kind of preaching the same thing for a while, but it was, if you don’t like a task, then you need to outsource it. Well, there’s some tasks we have no choice but to do, but even more than that, watch how your body responds to certain tasks and things you have to implement, and if you’re seeing a higher level of stress or resistance with it, that’s something you need to off-load.
One of the lowest hanging fruits that I find with many web-based entrepreneurs, especially, is this idea of customer service emails and/or Facebook messages and the way that we have customers expect a response right away, and I was walking around with my phone all the time because, and I had to be the person response, I was the face of the business, I had fallen into this trap of believing I had to be the person to respond to everything and I had a revelation where, at Disney World that we had saved for forever and took the kids, and I’m sitting in the bathroom peeing and I’m on the phone trying to check customer service emails, and I was like, this is not the life that I was trying to design.
And so, recognizing the stress and being in that moment, I was like, I’m going to go home and I’m going to hire someone to do emails and it doesn’t mean that I never touch them. It doesn’t mean I don’t touch my social media, but I, with emails, I can have standard customer service emails go through my team and since we portray ourselves as a team, people are offended when they don’t necessarily get me. I still chime in all the time, I still have a pulse of what’s going on, but that also allows me to off-load time and stress for me to choose the times that I want to be the hands that touch. Like, I do my own social media responses and inbox things on social media, because that’s just one of the things I pride myself with my brands, but I couldn’t do that if I’m trying to do all of this stuff and not filtering through, okay, do I have to be the one that does this, is this sucking out a lot of my time, is it causing me stress, because it was causing me mass amounts of stress. I was answering emails at two in the morning when I’d wake up to go to the restroom, and it was completely unhealthy and it was arising out of a fear, afraid that a customer was going to be upset if I didn’t respond or if I didn’t respond quick enough.
And you know what? To be honest, your customers are probably not sitting there at two a.m. waiting for you to reply. They probably sent the email and then went back to bed. You know, they’re not sitting and twiddling their thumbs, and if they’re jerks about it because you don’t respond in off-hours, they’re not customers you need anyways.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s so true. Well, you’re obviously very, very good at social media. You know, I’m looking at your stats and how many, forty-seven thousand Facebook fans, a huge group of Facebook people, you’ve got this massive following, you know, on email and whatever. How long did it, because that’s something that women, really all of us, as female entrepreneurs need to get better at, is building our personal brand and that kind of thought leadership.
So what are your secrets of that? How long did it take you to build those kind of numbers, and what is the secret of your success?
Rachel Brenke: So this is a hard answer because we have to look at it in the context, when I started building, let’s say, for example, the Facebook page, it was in the time where you posted something, every single one of your fans saw it. This was before ads, this was before targeting, this was 2007-ish to whenever they really started cracking down on the, I probably got 3 or 4 good years out of it.
So to be honest, it was relatively easy at the time. I just had to be super committed to having really fresh content, which isn’t any different than now, fresh and engaging content that I was super interactive with my audience on, that’s still important, my numbers have been stunted a bit, so this is, the Facebook page is probably ten, eleven years old and it has, I’ll have to look at the insights, but it has vastly slowed in follower numbers because I shifted away from investing a lot of time and continuing to grow the numbers on Facebook because it’s a pay to play environment now, and it’s, I really moved more towards my email list, which is about 200,000, but that’s with aggressive scribing, so that’s not only 200,000 people I’ve signed up over the last eleven years, that is almost 200,000 of active people.
We do a lot of scribing for bad emails, people who haven’t reengaged if, when we send out a reengagement email, trying to get them off the list and hopefully reengage them in other ways, but I think the biggest thing with social media is like what I just outlined – recognizing what the constraints are and seeing where you can put your voice and brand into, it’s also knowing where your customer or client avatar, that perfect individual that you want to buy your product or service, where are they at?
And mine are still on Facebook. I’ve been trying to grow my Instagram some, but they’re not as prevalent there, my person that I want to sell to is not as prevalent, and I get discouraged for entrepreneurs when I see them and they are trying to tackle all these social media accounts and there was a jack of all trades master of none, and as you can see with my numbers, forty-seven thousand on Facebook, I only have 5000 on Twitter because I’ve never cultivated it. I’ve never really pushed for a lot of engagement because my ideal client or customer is not there, or if they are, it wasn’t an effective way for me to share my brand and my voice and who I am. Facebook has been the platform that has provided that for me, and so identifying where they are and how it suits how your voice works.
Like Instagram, it’s a little harder for me, because you have what, one squared picture and that’s it. That’s all that’s really seen through a feed, and for me, I want to have video, I want to have different types of images, and I have more freedom on Facebook to be able to put non-cohesive images, because they’re not in one tiled format together like Instagram almost demands and it’s recognizing the weaknesses and knowing that what my skills and my person is looking to hear from me, is demands where I put my energies.
And I think, maybe the last thing on that too is, when I first started doing all the social media and building it, you had to have this perfect little world. You didn’t talk about the troubles that you had as entrepreneurs, you know? And I’ve kind of always just worn my heart on my sleeve, I’ve shared about the cancer on there, I shared about our battle with infertility, which is so funny because we have five kids now, but we did from the cancer in-between one and two, and I, forgot where I was going with all that, oh yeah.
So I was always, have always been outspoken about it. Here’s what I’m cautioning you guys against. I think the pendulum has swung from the showing this perfect world, it’s swung all the way to the other side where people almost champion hardships to the point that it becomes, there’s so many doing it, it becomes inauthentic and so you got to find a good happy medium of what the person you’re trying to reach wants to hear. I don’t really know how to articulate that.
Melinda Wittstock: No, that’s true. Like someone, you know, at my company, Verifeed, we developed an algorithm called return on authenticity, right, around social conversations because we analyze millions of them and so over time it became clear what it was that was working for brands and businesses, right, on social media and what wasn’t and so obviously, the ones that were showing up and really engaging people on a personal level and finding that emotional connection were doing better than everybody else, so hence, return on authenticity.
But you know, I went on a whole bunch of podcasts last year and almost everybody starting asking me, well, how do you know if someone’s authentically authentic?
Rachel Brenke: Well, no, it’s true! That’s so true! That’s a great way to put it.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? Because everybody’s kind of like, oh, look, it says here in the manual, like, cry here and paragraph three and then you know, and all the things that are, get everyone to feel sort of, I don’t know, and after a while, yeah, it does become really tiring and you want to see something positive, so like anything in life, it’s like a pendulum that swings to these extremes and the reality is somewhere in the middle, but I think people have a spidey-sense of when people are being real and when they’re not. Like, you can just sense it, somehow…
Rachel Brenke: Well, I think that’s part of why I’m not a big fan of Instagram about, is that it’s, because it’s in this whole tiled format and there’s this push for consistency and cohesiveness, it doesn’t allow me to be able to be as real, because here I have to put a pretty picture, then talk about how devastating an event in my life was, and it doesn’t jive with each other, you know?
Yeah, I think that it can push someone creatively and if you’re a creative entrepreneur listening, you can find a lot of people. That way, you can make it work for you. Just for my voice and my brand, it’s just hard for me to fit into that mold. I mean, I have seventeen and a half thousand, but I’ve only recently started developing that, and I think that the numbers have come because of real authentic authenticity. It’s true, people know, they’re not going to get sugar-coated stuff, but they’re also not going to get glitter and rainbows, because that’s, I’m about encouragement and real stuff and tangible practical tips.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm. This is so true. So, Rachel, what’s next for you? Where are you, what’s the big vision for the next big thing in your life? Where are you going? Where are you going to be five years, ten years from now?
Rachel Brenke: So what’s interesting is if you listen to any podcasts that I recorded about a month ago, it’d be a vastly different answer than now. We recently had a really horrible personal tragedy in our lives that has revolutionized my goals now. I’m still planning on continuing the legal blogs and the different businesses I have and continuing their trajectory up, but I think the biggest emphasis is creating a larger platform to have a louder voice. I have recently created a non-profit that is going to help to fund lobbying for the change of laws that protect our pets, and I’m not saying I’m letting go of my businesses to focus on that, but I want to continue to build my platforms with my businesses that financially sustain my family and that fulfill me as a entrepreneur, but I want to grow the platforms louder so I have a higher, taller foundation and platform to talk about this really near and dear to my heart mission.
Melinda Wittstock: May I ask what happened?
Rachel Brenke: Yeah, our dog was killed. There’s not much more I can say, we’re still dealing with the legal stuff, but he was my running buddy, we were with, he was always with me at the office, it was a horrible, hasn’t been a month, it’s been absolutely horrible, but in that, I, it’s interesting, because everyone’s like, you moved so quick to set up a non-profit and do all this, and I was like, it was either that or lay in my house and cry, and I have the capabilities and skills to be able to implement change and do something like that, and when I realized that, there was next to no laws to protect him or to get justice for him, my heart was broken and I wanted more to come out of his death than just getting over it and getting another dog in the future. I wanted it to make a real, real change, which sounds cliché, but now I understand when people have a tragedy and they raise from the ashes. I’m hoping to walk in those footsteps.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness. Well, I’m so sorry for your loss. Our dogs are so precious to us. I think it’s because they are pure love, and when we lose them, it is devastating, and so my heart goes out to you and you told me a little bit about your dog?
Rachel Brenke: His name was Archer, we’ve had him for about six years, coming up on six years, and he was a rescue. We have two rescue dogs. Well, one was him, and then we have his sister, and he was just here always. Like, right now, if he was still here, he’d be laying on my feet as I record this, follow me around the house, he helped me lose a hundred pounds through running and training, I now compete with Team USA for triathlon, and he definitely helped to get me up off the couch. It helped me through a post-partum depression. We mentioned earlier, a bit, about how entrepreneurship can be very lonely and I was going through post-partum, trying to do everything on my own, I was still a solo-preneur, and I was extremely overweight and extremely unhappy, and he literally helped me run that.
Rachel Brenke: And so it’s, it wasn’t just a dog. You know, he definitely, like you said, was pure love and had a great impact on my life, and so now my goal is to take his life and make a really big impact for others.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s beautiful. I love that he was your spirit guide and he’s still with you, and oh. Bless Archer. Oh my goodness. My first, Pundit, was, used to hang out with me in one of my early, earlier businesses at the US Capitol, hence the name Pundit, I guess, but same thing. Helped me through so many things and Josie now, a rescue too, they’re so important to us, so I love what you’re doing. Let me know how I can support you in any way, and Rachel, what an amazing life that you live. Like, all the things that you’ve done. Athlete, cancer survivor, I mean, we haven’t even talked about the fact that you’re a photographer and you’re an author, and you’re like a lawyer and you’re obviously an entrepreneur, I mean, it’s –
Rachel Brenke: Multi-passionate.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, but I mean, how inspiring. It really is proof that really, for anyone listening to this, that you can do anything. You can do all of these things. It’s just like, the only thing that stops us is our own minds and our own imaginations.
Rachel Brenke: Well, you know what’s interesting is that I doubt myself a lot and even though, once I get a plan, I will enact it, I still have doubts and it’s interesting. If you stop and you look up and you see the people around you who have more faith in you than you do in yourself, that is inspiring and that’s amazing, so surrounding yourself with people making a plan, and knowing I didn’t do all this in one day, this is over a decade’s worth of being intentional in deciding what I wanted to do and just knowing that I want to do a lot of things, I’m not going to tell myself no, maybe not right now, maybe I’ll do it in the future because there’s still things that I want to do, but you just never know, but you can make a plan, it’ll happen.
Like I said, I never expected that I would be, now, doing lobbying work and running a non-profit. I expected that’s something I would’ve done in twenty years once the kids were gone, but life had other plans and I truly believe that the platforms and things I’ve created, the skills that I have, are there for a reason and now, I mean, I used to believe, and I mentioned this earlier, that I was, I’m on the ground floor to help moms be able to be around with their kids and have a piece of entrepreneurship, but now I’m like, man, all of that was at the foundation for something even bigger, and so, it’s exciting. It’s very sad, but it’s very exciting. I know that sounds weird, but it’s very exciting to see that there’s a purpose coming out of all of this.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s wonderful. Well, Rachel, how can people find you and work with you? Do you have any special offers or anything for them today?
Rachel Brenke: Yeah, so you guys can find me at RachelBrenke.com, I have my podcast and all of my niche sites are linked there, so if you guys are looking for very specific legal information, for photographers or fitness professionals or online or general entrepreneurs, you guys can find all of that there. I also have a free legal checklist that is linked at the top. Please download it and use it, this is, doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, this can work for just about anybody, it’s really great, even if you’re going to go down and get your own attorney, it’s a really good way for you to start beginning the research and knowledge to be able to protect your business, because what’s the point in entrepreneurship if we may potentially lose it one day, simply because we didn’t take the legal steps to do it?
So hopefully, this will help you guys. I know it will, because I’ve had many clients work through and do it, and if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. I’m more than happy to help.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s wonderful. Well, thank you so much for such an inspiring interview and putting on your wings and taking flight with us today.
Rachel Brenke: Awesome. Thanks for having me.