Liz Dennery Sanders
Founder & CEO, SheBrand
As a dynamic brand strategist, marketing consultant and personal development coach, Liz founded SheBrand.com to apply her expertise to her passion for empowering women and girls. SheBrand is a global, online business dedicated to providing women entrepreneurs with the tools to build their confidence and their brands. Previously, Liz founded the nationally acclaimed creative brand READ MORE »
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: I started working in public relations and marketing as an intern while I was in college, first for Warner Bros. pictures, and then for a small entertainment PR firm owned by two women in Boston. I knew I had found a good fit for my strengths and personality, and continued to work in the marketing arena for many years after college, for New Orleans Publishing Group, and then Harper’s Bazaar in NYC.
I started my own agency over a decade ago, specializing in brand strategy and PR for fashion and lifestyle brands. But it was actually through my philanthropic work that I became connected to my bigger WHY and mission in life. I’ve spent the last 15 years working with underserved women and girls, and realized that I could use my 20 plus years of experience to help women entrepreneurs build their confidence and their brands and become successful.
It was a real light bulb moment for me. I downsized my agency immediately, and SheBrand was born. Now, more than three years later, we are helping thousands of women build their brands, connect to their voice and articulate their message.
Q: What’s your best advice for an entrepreneur in an early/bootstrapping phase?
You will inevitably encounter a lot of negativity when you’re first building your business. People will tell you that it can’t be done. You’ll probably hear the word “no” a lot. Starting a business – and succeeding – takes a lot of courage and tenacity. Find your cheerleaders and like-minded entrepreneurs, and surround yourself with people who will lift you up, especially when you feel like throwing in the towel (which will happen – don’t give up.).
Balance is a fallacy.
Our society puts a lot of pressure on women to have it all – friends, family, motherhood, business. When you’re first starting out, things tend to get a bit out of whack sometimes.
I always laugh at the so-called “gurus” who tout balance as the be all and end all. When you are building a business, the business is going to take up most of your time. In fact, you’ll probably eat, sleep and breathe it for the first few years. But I promise, it does start to even out eventually.
Delegate as soon as you are able.
That said, I think it’s imperative to get some help as soon as you can. Even if it’s hiring a part-time assistant for just 10-15 hours a month, in order to become more successful, you need to spend more time using your superpowers – doing the work that you do best – and less time answering emails, filing papers and doing your bookkeeping. Or simply to take a yoga class, go to the dentist or spend a few hours with your kids. I find the women who accelerate their success, are the ones who begin to outsource as soon as possible.
Q: What are your top three tips for networking?
- Don’t network just for the sake of networking. Get involved with people and organizations that you really care about. Put your heart into it.
- Stop talking about yourself. Ask the other person questions about THEIR life and work.
Q: A great negotiation can be game changing for one’s business or life. Studies have shown that men are much more comfortable negotiating and asking for what they want compared to women. What’s your advice to women who are uncomfortable negotiating?
A: It took me a long time to speak up for myself. So many of us were raised to be “good girls” – to listen and not be heard. Society still has a nasty habit of labeling a woman a bitch when she speaks up in an assertive way. For some reason, we would never look at a man in the same way. Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright and Margaret Thatcher have all encountered this prejudice.
And yet, women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men. We control more than 80% of purchasing power and 60% of the wealth in this country. According to the Dalai Lama, “the Western woman will save the world.” We better start speaking up and asking for what we want.
These are the steps that have helped me personally overcome my discomfort with speaking up and negotiating:
- Pay attention to your body and be aware of any red flags. You know that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach, or the hair standing up on the back of your neck? These could be tell-tale signs that someone is trampling on your boundaries and you need to say something. Don’t ignore them.
- Do your research and show up prepared. If you are fortunate to have some time before a negotiation, make sure you look at the issue from all sides and accumulate any data, statistics or information that might be helpful
- Stay grounded. In moments of fear and discomfort, we often leave our body and go blank. Don’t be afraid to take a step back, breathe, get up from you chair and walk around the room. Sometimes silence can be a powerful negotiating tool.
- Remember, in any negotiation, the person who is willing to walk away is always in the position of power.
Q: What do you believe makes a great brand?
A: A great brand makes a powerful emotional connection with its community. It owns powerful real estate in the mind of its target market. It is clear, confident, consistent, authentic, remarkable and engaging. A truly AWESOME brand makes a promise, and then delivers on that promise over and over again.
Q: What do you feel separates your brand from your competitors?
A: First of all, when you are 100% yourself, there is no such thing as competition. There is only one YOU, so you might as well make it the best possible version ever!
That said, your brand is your stand. It’s your story – WHY you do what you do and how you solve people’s problems and present them with an opportunity.
I have a sixth sense for superpowers. I can sift through the clutter and zero in on a woman’s capacity – her awesome – in a very short amount of time. I am a brand archaeologist, with a brain for brilliance and a talent for taglines. With my 20 plus years of branding, marketing and public relations experience, it’s a pretty powerful combination.
Because of my difficulties as a young girl and the philanthropic work I’ve done over the past 15 years, my passion is helping women build their confidence, connect their own dots and become successful. While I’m helping them create powerful brands, marketing plans and social media strategies, if you look a little deeper, they’re really becoming empowered to step into the spotlight and own their message.
Q: Do you (formally or informally) mentor anyone? If so, who and why is it rewarding?
A: I’ve been a mentor for the past 12 years. First, for Women in Need in NYC, where I taught classes in self-esteem, interviewing skills and professional etiquette, and then for Step Up Women’s Network, where I’ve been involved with both the teen programs and their Professional Mentorship & Development program.
I’ve been privileged to work with both teen girls as well as women in their 20’s and 30’s, and I find all of it to be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. I believe that we are all here to serve in some capacity. If you can figure out what that is – what’s going to give you the greatest amount of fulfillment while you’re helping others in the process, it creates a happy and rewarding life. It’s not the stuff we accumulate that makes us happy, it’s the lives we touch – and hopefully change for the better.
ON Self Care
Q: Online calendars, emailing ourselves, post-it notes…I’m still struggling to find the best way to manage my time and my to-do list. What’s your method?
A: Ooh, this is a big one! Every year we survey the SheBrand community to find out what they are struggling with, and time management is always at the top of the list.
I would say these are my top three tips – they’re hugely effective when you use them daily:
- Every day before you leave the office (or before you go to bed), write down the top THREE things that must get done the next day. Not necessarily the most urgent, but those things that will propel you forward, make you money and are aligned with your values and goals.
- Set a timer. Whether it’s 20 minutes or 60 minutes, turn off all distractions such as your phone and computer, and commit to focusing on ONE project for the designated amount of time. When the buzzer goes off, pat yourself on the back and take a 15 minute break.
- Eat That Frog! Prioritize and do the most difficult thing on your to-do list FIRST. Once you get the hard stuff out of the way, other tasks will feel like a breeze.
I’ve also written a couple of recent posts on this topic and you can find them here: http://www.shebrand.com/the-down-dirty-on-time-management-my-top-10-tips/
Q: In the world, what are your 3 Favorite Destinations?
A: New Orleans (my hometown), Paris and Salzburg (I also love Rome, Tokyo, Sydney, London and Bora Bora – so hard to limit it to just three!)
Q: In the world, what are your 3 Favorite Places to Get Lost?
A: Barnes & Noble, Paris and an engrossing novel
Q: In the world, what are your 3 Favorite Places to Shop?
A: Magazine Street in New Orleans, Faubourg St. Honoré in Paris and Elyse Walker in the Palisades
Q: In the world, what are your 3 favorite restaurants?
A: Relais de L’Entrecote in Paris for steak frites, Clancy’s in New Orleans for southern specialties and an Old Fashioned, and Bouchon in Beverly Hills – my husband and I love to sit at the bar and order raw oysters and a charcuterie plate.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Steel Magnolia. Ladylike and gracious, strong and independent. Never judge a book by its cover.