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I graduated from college right in the midst of the 2009 recession; in the most expensive city in the United States. Needless to say, white collar jobs were hard to come by and it was even harder to find a job that would allow me to  pay rent.

So I did what most college graduates did at that time: I took on multiple jobs. Each job had flexibility, which I loved because I am not one to sit at a desk for 8 hours. At one time I was the Field Marketing Manager for Sports Clips, Community Marketer for Happy Family and a freelance reporter for Patch.com. Here are some things that I learned while working at those multiple jobs, that I now rely on almost every day as the founder of Epifania.

Know Your Audience: Each of these companies had very different audiences. I had to learn different languages as I spoke to each of these demographics. I had to attend the events where I knew I could find them. This meant I had to carefully study them and observe how they responded when I gave them my pitch for that particular organization.

Don’t Grow Your Business Until You Are Truly Ready: Unfortunately I was with Sports Clips and Happy Family when they were trying to break into the Bay Area market. Even though I was on the ground floor, I felt the growing pains. The Bay Area is an interesting market, where family products can work, if placed strategically. Each town along the 280, 101, 580, 680 demographics differ from one another. Some towns may be “family-orientated”, but you have to dig deeper than that. What type of family? Young, or middle age? How many kids? Where do they shop? This will tell you where your customers are and if you are ready to grow.

Pay The Money For Marketing: Sports Clips is a franchise business. I appreciate the franchise owners’ willingness to open up a business during the recession. Here is where I butted heads with the owners: I had 11 stores that all wanted a marketing plan. They thought marketing was direct mail. They couldn’t or didn’t want to pay the money for Facebook ads, or sponsor a local football team, which made it very difficult for them to grow and establish a presence in their communities. I took the lesson while trying to grow Epifania. I recently started to do Facebook ads and have seen the difference. You have to invest in your marketing. It cannot be an afterthought.

Listen. Take Action. Listen.: You have to listen to your customers. They will tell you what they like AND don’t like. Happy Family did an excellent job at this. I saw them grow from having some products in local stores in the Bay Area to having their products in Target. This made it easier for middle class moms, who were an emerging demographic in organic baby food, to be able to purchase the product where they shop. Listening has helped so much in the growth of Epifania. My team, classmates, friends, family all give suggestions. From adding better lighting to a video, to what topics I should write about.

Empower Your Employees: You can’t bark orders at your employees or they will quit. At Sport Clips, I got to work with a lot of amazing stylists. They loved the safety of Sport Clips because they didn’t have to shop for their own customers – which is damn near impossible to do, during a recession. I saw some franchise owners empower their stylists, and managers to take ownership of the store. Then I saw some owners not making this a priority. Customers could tell by walking in who was happy, and who was not. It makes a world of difference if you give your employees some TLC. Everyone needs to feel valued. With Epifania, I give projects to my team. But I check in on their workload, their personal commitments. You can’t expect a cake to be made, without asking the chef if he has ingredients.

Be Personable: You will go the extra mile for someone, if you know a little bit about their personal life. Be mindful of what you share and who you share it with. But don’t just view people as colleagues or employees. Luckily for me, my manager at Sports Clips was wonderful at building personal relationships.

What have your previous jobs taught you? Remember to keep learning and keep growing no matter how you are paying the bills at this point in your life