367 Sara Graham: Espresso Entrepreneur

What if you could launch a business in 12 weeks? What do you have to do to get going?  And if you build it, will they come? Not unless you know your avatar and have your marketing strategy nailed.


I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who left behind the corporate branding world to help female entrepreneurs launch their businesses with a strong marketing plan.

And if this is something you think you don’t have time for …you probably are exactly the person who needs to make time. Because you’ll get further in those 4 days than you will in 4 months plus we’ll show you how to turn time from a scarce resource into a limitless one – we call it “return on time” … so you to have all the time you need for business, love, parenting, friends and fun. Wingsexperiences.com/apply

She is a creative entrepreneur, brand builder, and a culturally astute content producer who has thrived on deadlines for boutique businesses as well as Fortune 500 companies. Before she took the leap into entrepreneurship, she was editor-in-chief and brand manager at Youth Culture Group and she also produced customized advertorials for major brands such as Rimmel, L’Oreal and Wal-Mart, and original content for Toronto Eaton Centre’s monthly e-magazine, as well as contributing to many print and online publications such as Flight Centre’s magazine, Laineygossip.com, The Zoe Report and Huffington Post.

So are you ready for Sara Graham? I am. Let’s fly!

Melinda Wittstock:         Sara, welcome to Wings.

Sara Graham:                    Thank you Melinda. This is a major honor for me and just in awe of everything that you’ve done with your career and happy to be here and talk to you and your listeners.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh gosh, well, it’s great to talk to a fellow Canadian. I like to hear that it reminds me that everyone, if I have a glass of wine, a little bit of “oot” will come out of my voice.

Sara Graham:                    Oh yeah. [inaudible 00:09:17] Canada. I didn’t mention that.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s funny so every now and again my Candadianess shows through, but nice to chat with another Canadian today on this podcast. I really want to start the interview by asking you what made you take the entrepreneurial leap because there you were, you’re working for all these amazing brands like L’Oreal and Walmart and Rommel. What was it? What was the little spark inside you that said okay, I got to go out on my own?

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, so just for context, I was working in Toronto for what was Canada’s top teen magazine at the time for a company called Youth Culture Group which published a few magazines. Yeah, I was editor in chief, but I also wore the hats of editorial. When a company like L’Oreal or Rommel or Walmart or Canadian Tire, they didn’t have advertising for the teen market, I had to create it. It was a very full on 24/7 job. I loved it though. It was really universe that I thrived in lets say. I just got burnt out to be honest. It came to a point where I had sort of have enough saved up and I was just like I’m going to take a break from everything and see what happens. I sort of did a few different jobs and after that I … after my break, I fell into working with a Fortune 500 company, [inaudible 00:11:05] Center. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Toronto and Canadian malls. It’s one of the biggest and I was doing their email marketing. That was sort of my lets say the first big entrepreneurial gig.

Just kind of snowballed from there working with small to medium sized businesses and just really found that I enjoyed working with female entrepreneurs. I worked with [inaudible 00:11:38] champion to refresh their website through to writing copy for toothpaste. Many different … I just think it’s the variety that keeps me going anyway. It’s always fun to have a new challenge and I’ve worked with many different female entrepreneurs from naturopathic doctor to master [inaudible 00:12:04], success coaches and I just on-boarded a swimsuit designer. Lots of different styles of business.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh yeah. That’s really interesting. Well, I mean, it’s curious now so many more women are going into entrepreneurship.

Sara Graham:                    Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         It strikes me that we have the wherewithal and the potential to rewrite the rules of business in such a way that suits our lives and yet the only role models for years in entrepreneurship were men. What’s your perspective on that? How do, because a lot of your clients are women. I want to break it down a little bit in terms of how do women do it differently? Where are we, let’s start with where we’re great? What we bring to the table that men don’t.

Sara Graham:                    Right, so I think it’s just like that. We really want people to know they can trust us before and we’re good at that. I suppose men are a little bit more direct whereas we take a bit more time and I just think there’s something to be said for a woman’s perspective and awareness and the compassion that we can bring to the table. I think you can definitely see it in the presidential debates right now the different because so many women are coming up now and that’s exciting. It’s hopefully going to continue to be a top down situation going forward where you see women … I was just reading the news about women are being hand picked to run the European banks and taking on bank positions. Yeah, I just think that women have a perspective and they just bring in more level headed patience maybe.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, I think you’re right there that we are definitely more relationship focused. We’re more wired for that. If you look at how we’ve evolved over millennia, women have been interacting with one another as the men went out with the spear to bring the wildebeest back, we were doing everything else.

Sara Graham:                    Everything else, yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Everything else so that means however that we’re really good at two things. Relationship and also getting stuff done and that’s great until it’s not because one of the things that I see women do to often where both of those assets turn into negatives. On the relationship side, it turns into people pleasing and it turns into not being able to make a decision fast enough for wanting to be liked so much that it’s hard to make the really hard business decision that needs to be made. On the other flip side of it, with the doing stuff, yeah, just because we can do everything doesn’t mean that we should.

Sara Graham:                    Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         Looking for areas, One of the things that men are very good at is really understanding leverage and business where you can do one thing and have a multiplicity of results or just get somebody else to do it.

Sara Graham:                    Right, yes. I love the point that Tina brought up in the podcast for Tina Sharkey just saying that-

Melinda Wittstock:         Tina Sharkey, yes. She’s amazing.

Sara Graham:                    Yes. She is brilliant and I just though that her point saying that when she’s considering investors, investing in companies she notices that women try to think that they have to have everything figured out whereas the guys are like, well, I’ll figure it out along the way. Women are putting this other extra pressure on themselves I suppose.

Melinda Wittstock:         There should be an AA for perfectionists because …

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, I would definitely be a member.

Melinda Wittstock:         Because right, and so women do that and I think we confuse perfectionism with mastery. It’s great to be really good at something. That’s awesome. No one’s saying that that’s not great, but where perfectionism can really be a block in business is you can spend so much time getting it right that the whole market moves before you’ve even gotten out there.

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, that’s true and just be … I’ve seen that with clients. They just, it’s like okay, we don’t have this span of time thing here because things are going to change and working with naturopathic doctors to get her course, she’s creating a course for other new naturopathic doctors. It’s been a few months falling behind because of this sort of bad habit is happening with her. It’s just keeping on that motivation. I think we lose momentum maybe to quickly or just you’ve got to push yourselves.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, well, just knowing when things are good enough. I mean, I think one of the things that’s tricky is manifesting the kind of enough confidence to be able to trust our own customers. If we can get out there early enough with an incomplete thought or what we regard as an incomplete thought, and allow our customers to co-create with us, we create much stronger products, much more loyal customers, they’re flattered, we have better intelligence. It’s all better although I can see so many people not doing that and men too by the way. It’s not just a female thing. It’s kind of like okay, I’m going to build this thing and everybody’s going to come. No, you really got to co-create with your customers right at the beginning. I’m curious what you think about that from a marketing perspective because that’s [inaudible 00:18:11] genius really the marketing and the copywriting and all of that. How does a founder say at an early stage of a company, say it’s idea stage or is a little bit beyond idea stage like it’s a business, it’s going, but they’re trying to find their customers.

They’re trying to get recurring revenue. They’re trying to get all that kind of stuff. How should the marketing be handled at that stage of a company so that you can actually kind of co-create with your customers?

Sara Graham:                    Well, I think the target market research is so key at the beginning. I see people skipping that or just feeling like it’s [crosstalk 00:18:50].

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh that’s a bad mistake. Yeah, you have to know who you’re selling to for sure.

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, and every client that comes to me is like who is your ideal perfect customer and they’re like well, everybody. Well, no.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh God. That’s a classic one. I know. Everybody thinks it’s everybody. Why is that?

Sara Graham:                    Well, I think it’s just because you don’t want to leave anybody out. In some cases it’s very specific, but like with the swimsuit designer, but with an accountant that I was working with, a New York City based accountant last year, it did start with everybody and I said, “Well, no. You have a niche. You have certain business that you like to work with don’t you? You don’t want to work with people who are … don’t have any cash to pay you for your services do you?” It isn’t everybody. That I think is so key and just keeping in tune with the customer through a really great email marketing. I see that being really effective for people when it’s done well. I think email marketing got a bad rep because so many people were doing it badly.

Melinda Wittstock:         Open rates are very low though. It’s hard to get people to even open your email.

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, they can but, but I think that’s also just knowing your really niching, really knowing your target customer and finding them going on surround and just tracking these people down. There’s services that can help me do that. Thrive Social is a good one. I try to find support services like that that can help me find my ideal customers also [crosstalk 00:20:42].

Melinda Wittstock:         What was the company that you recommended there?

Sara Graham:                    It’s called Thrive Social.

Melinda Wittstock:         Thrive Social.

Sara Graham:                    Dogs barking in the [crosstalk 00:20:50].

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s okay. I know. I got my little puppy sitting next to me. He’s pretty quiet. He’s only 13 weeks old.

Sara Graham:                    We like dogs [crosstalk 00:20:58].

Melinda Wittstock:         We like dogs and it’s okay. You know what? I don’t mind dogs barking on my podcast. I think that’s cool. I’m a big dog lover so everybody, if you got a little bit of a dog there, that’s awesome. I mean, the curious thing for me is why people struggle, wait, I’m just gong to pick up there. Just hold on a second Tate. Sarah, what’s interesting to me getting back to this whole avatar thing of actually knowing your target customer.

Sara Graham:                    Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         I found over the years, and I’ve run a social intelligence company called Verifeed that actually has been finding people, their customers by virtue of what they share on their social conversations. What I found really interesting about some of our Verifeed clients was that they had as assumption of who their target market was for their [crosstalk 00:21:47]. Then their assumption proved wildly wrong. I remember we working [crosstalk 00:21:53] a Fintech company that was because they were selling retirement products, they were convinced they were selling to baby boomers. What our data showed was that actually it was millennial women that fit the profile for the product that they were selling.

Sara Graham:                    Wow.

Melinda Wittstock:         The data, right, yeah, exactly. The data told a totally different story about what you thought which, or what this company thought and that repeated itself so many times that I began to think, well wait a minute, the only way you can really know who your customer is, is just to start interviewing them like lots of open ended questions. I mean, really doing that leg work to understand who they are. Kind of like if we did this, will that be magical for you? No? Well, how about this? What keeps you awake at three o’clock in the morning. Understanding how they’re talking about their need and then just filling that need.

Sara Graham:                    Melinda, I even tell my clients to talk to people about email marketing. If you’re my ideal customer, how do you … Do you like to read emails in the morning or the weekend? When would you read my emails kind of thing.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, right. I mean, you can guess I guess or you can know.

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, and my client Beth was amazing. She was making the jump from Big Pharma, 18 years in Big Pharma and she was making the jump to become a success coach, Olympic level athlete, very determined. She’s one of my favorite clients because she’s just like waking up 6:00 AM just so she could talk to me because we were in quite a time difference. She went full on with the target market interviews so she found six women that were definitely her perfect clients and she asked them all the questions that I provided her with and yeah, she just had like a really good sense of who that person is and it informs everything you do. How you write your emails, how you set up your website, the photos and the brand voice that you use through all your online pieces because that’s your website and social media. It’s really important to take the time to do all that.

Melinda Wittstock:         You have a 12 week program that gets people from idea stage to a new business.

Sara Graham:                    Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         In just 12 weeks. Give me an idea of what that involves? How do you do that? It’s called Espresso appropriately.

Sara Graham:                    The Espresso program, yeah. I love coffee and I had this, I did a writers workshop a couple years ago with Laura Belgray who is Marie Forleo copywriter. She’s a pretty cool girl. I just had this whole, I was doing target market research and I just had this whole vision for my perfect client and someone who loves coffee shops. The Espresso program just kind of came out of that. It’s basically I’d say zero to launch in 12 weeks. We start with target market research all the way through logo and website design, incorporating social media strategy. I have people who do private trainings so as part of the program they end up with fully SEO optimized websites and marketing is all part of that plus I recently added a media training to that program. It’s pretty robust for 12 weeks and there’s a lot of content and support. It’s sort of part training, part done for you. Of course, I write all the website copy and put all that together. Yeah, that just gets them going with their online business.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s awesome. What happens after the 12 weeks?

Sara Graham:                    After the 12 weeks, after she’s launched, we basically sometimes we continue in a support role just to get her keep going whether it’s with email marketing or some other help that she might still, that she feels that she needs. All the training is there so she can update her website herself. It’s really meant to be instilling the confidence so she can run with it and it doesn’t need to be coming back to me and paying me more money to do more things because I find that’s … I feed all the time in website design. People don’t know their back end is like crazy, a mess of things and they don’t know how to upload a blog post or what have you and they need to back to the person paying more money. I think that’s not a great position to be in for the new business owner.

Melinda Wittstock:         Back to that, “if you build it, will they come” issue. You’re essentially helping them to make sure that they have the framework that they’re able to drive recurring revenue, that their pricing is right. All that kind of stuff. What do they have at the end of the 12 weeks.

Sara Graham:                    They have their brand template so they understand how they’re presented online, how to curate their images going forward for social media, fully optimized website and email marketing automation with the lead magnet that is helping to drive traffic. Part of the program is media training so we try to get that first pitch out and try to get them some media coverage to again, drive traffic to that website. Obviously it’s not just about having a pretty website. It’s really got to be serving the bottom line, making sure people are aware and with a naturopathic doctor, we’re also setting up her membership program like Facebook is a big part of that. Setting up a couple of Facebook private and closed groups to help her get the word out about this new membership program.

Melinda Wittstock:         Awesome. That’s really cool. What’s next for you? You’ve got a bunch of these clients who are relatively new to this. You’re growing your business by helping other people grow theirs. Where do you see it ultimately unfolding for you? What’s your big vision? Where are you going next?

Sara Graham:                    That’s a great question. I really would love to have a group Espresso program where it would like right now that 12 week program is eight thousand dollars so I would really love to have a group that’s say six to eight that went in that are sort of helping each other like we’re going through the program altogether. I just feel like there’s, I’m a part of mastermind groups and I just see there’s so much value and feedback from other people. I would love to have a group Espresso program.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, that’s awesome.

Sara Graham:                    [crosstalk 00:31:00] to scale honestly. That’s the only way to scale it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Sara, people really struggle with their marketing, getting their copy right on their website, really understanding their customers. What are some of the main things that you see people doing wrong?

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, with clients and female entrepreneurs in general, waiting until it’s all perfect, “perfect” to launch. When I’m working with a client, there’s always a Beta phase. I encourage them to start talking about promoting their products and services well before their website goes live.

We set up an Instagram profile, so it all looks great and the branding is live quite quickly. But let’s say the website isn’t ready and the product isn’t actually for sale yet, but you want to start talking about those products and services well before you’re launching because otherwise you’re just going to have crickets on launch day. It’s just about owning it; owning what you’re offering. I always say to my clients start following people, pressing peers on Instagram, set up your Facebook groups and start telling people about what you’re doing, even on your personal Facebook profile. That’s, you know, one thing like waiting until-

Melinda Wittstock:         So really collaborating with your customers very, very early on.

Sara Graham:                    Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         So you know that you’re creating something that’s relevant to them and moreover that you’re communicating with them in a way that’s going to resonate.

Sara Graham:                    100%. Like as soon as you know who your target market, once all that research is done, just really honing in on that person and finding them on the social media channels and start sending, start reeling them in, let’s say, through your social media channels. And LinkedIn as well is important.

Melinda Wittstock:         As people get going, say they’re working with you and your Espresso Program for those 12 weeks, just give us an idea of where you start and kind of where you end. How do people get through it so quickly?

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, when I sign on with clients, you have to make sure that we’re both in the same sync. They usually have to be quite prepared to hone in and do the work because it’s a lot of, at the beginning it’s a lot of prep with target market research. Once all that is done, basically I’m good to go and I can set up a website. I can do all the copywriting and set up their email marketing automations and then it’s sort of like weekly check-ins. It’s just keeping on, keeping on track and training them. They go off with someone to do LinkedIn training, they go off with another person to do Instagram training. Lots of things are going on as I’m doing the work on the website and I’m getting all the bells and whistles and technical stuff taken care of.

Generally just see people just not investing in the right help is another mistake. You want to go back to the mistakes I see people making, particularly with website design, I see out female entrepreneurs either paying way too much or wasting so much time DIY and things that are not within their skillset. Thankfully platforms like Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix have certainly made it easier to set up a site, but one still has to have am eye for aesthetics and technical knowledge to do it properly and efficiently. The SEO, the search engine optimization is a big part and making sure all those pieces fit, so those ideal customers and clients can actually find you when they search for whatever product or service you’re offering.


Melinda Wittstock:        This is business number five and in my experience I find, and I do work a lot with women as well, I find what holds women back the most and this is true of men also is what’s in our own heads.

Sara Graham:                    Oh 100%.

Melinda Wittstock:         What we believe we can do as opposed to what we believe we can’t. I’ve found in all the consulting work and coaching work that I do kind of on the side with a lot of women, it’s really involves a lot of work on mindset issues at the end of the day. I mean, we’re talking about business, but we’re actually, actually talking about what’s the thing that’s holding you back from taking action? What’s the thing that’s making you a perfectionist? What’s the thing that’s making you hire to late? What’s the thing that, what are all those blocks? I mean, how do you find that manifesting when you work with your clients?

Sara Graham:                    Well, yeah, definitely. As you said, like hiring people to help them with the different aspects of the business. Just might not be sure about it or like just maybe an unwillingness to try to put the investment in there. I see that with women in general, not just my clients. I do a lot of consulting calls like free consultations for people who are thinking about this idea. They want to see how possible they can bring it life. Just see a lot of hesitation in terms of like … normally there’s more than one idea. They’re not sure which one. It’s just I find that is maybe holding a lot of people back. Some people here who are listening can relate and that’s where I was honestly a couple years ago before I did my own business training coaching and deciding to create the Espresso program, I was really … I had just written a book and self published it. A book on relocation so I was either going to go this way or to consolidate my skills from my days as editor in chief and copywriting and helping brands grow.

I had two very distinct roads and I just did the ideal customer. I sat down and I was like who do I really want to work with? What do I want to do? What does my day want to look like? That just really gave me the confidence to make the right choice. To develop FreshPresse.co and develop the Espresso program and so happy that I did that because this really opened some doors for me.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right.

Sara Graham:                    Back to the mindset thing, I do feel that we’ve got to keep our shit together as they say in life. Whether you’re … I mean it’s one thing to click like on all these positive affirmations that we see on Instagram, but you really got to have your own sort of practice to stay in that flow and keep your head straight. For me it’s yoga and meditation and I’m a runner as well. Those are … those pillars of yoga, meditation and exercise really calm my mind and help me think straight and it’s really improved my productivity as in [inaudible 00:36:05] Berntsein. I don’t know if you follow her, but she always says people are complaining that they don’t have enough time to meditate or what have you and she’s like, “Well do you have time to feel like crap?”

Melinda Wittstock:         Right, yeah.

Sara Graham:                    I think that’s a good line to …

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh gosh. I mean, as a host of several retreats for women in business where people say oh God, I’d love to do that, but I don’t have time and it’s like, you’re exactly the person who needs to take time.

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, I believe it, yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Because if we don’t take time for our own education and it’s constant no matter where you are in business, even with business number five. I mean, it’s like entrepreneurs need to be dedicated to lifelong learning. You need to be connecting and creating really game changing relationships because business is about relationship and you need to be looking after yourself. That’s why when you’re on an airplane they say put the oxygen mask on first, then put it on your kids. Same thing in business. We’re really at our best when we take time for ourselves and time to really connect with other women as well. It’s such an important message that you put that kind of self care and your learning and training and everything ahead. That’s awesome. Sara, how can people find you and work with you?

Sara Graham:                    Yeah, so I have a website, FreshPresse.co and  you can find me on Instagram at Fresh Presse.

Melinda Wittstock:         Of course you have a special offer for our listeners today. Can you tell them a little bit about that?

Sara Graham:                    Yeah. I have … I’ve created an email marketing course. I just saw a lot of people, including my clients, really having a fear of email marketing. Thinking that it’s too invasive. Or even one client even said, you know, she felt that it was icky. Again, when I see female entrepreneurs diving into the email marketing, I do see them making a lot of mistakes, lack of strategy with email campaigns. I created this course specifically for entrepreneurs. It’s available on Udemy. I’m gifting it for the first three Wings podcast listeners that want to sign up for a free brands consultation. Then I can do that through Freshpress.co.

Melinda Wittstock:         Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.

Sara Graham:                    Thank you. It’s been really great.





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Listen to learn the secrets, strategies, practical tips and epiphanies of women entrepreneurs who’ve “been there, built that” so you too can manifest the confidence, capital and connections to soar to success!
Instantly get Melinda’s Wings Success Formula
Review on iTunes and win the chance for a VIP Day with Melinda