SG Podcast Episode 123: Business journeys and branding with Shaun Sunderland

Another episode of the Solopreneur Grind Podcast is live!

In this episode of the Solopreneur Grind Podcast, I talk to Shaun Sunderland about:

  • How and why he started 2 different companies/partnerships after leaving a well paying job
  • The way he started these companies, found partners and improved from business to business
  • Great tips about business branding for new solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and common mistakes to avoid

And much more.

You can listen to the episode on your favorite podcast platform here, or watch the video/read the transcript below!

Where to find Shaun: 





[00:00:00] Josh: Hey everybody. This is Josh for episode 123 of the Solopreneur Grind Podcast. I’m very happy to be joined by Sean Sunderland. Sean, thank you very much for coming on the show today.
[00:00:12] Shaun: Thank you for having me. I’m excited for our conversation.
[00:00:15] Josh: Very, very excited as well. Sean, can you start just by telling everybody a little bit about yourself and what you’re working on right now?
[00:00:23] Shaun: Yeah, of course. I’m the creator of Brand Roots. Brand Roots is a brand consulting and personal guidance. I’ve earned a little bit of a reputation as, as the brand healer for helping you heal the areas that are out of alignment in your business, as well as creating an empowered mindset in the creator and moving both forward with an actionable plan.
So, you know, I love helping unique service-based offers and really creating that strong strategy, helping them with their design, helping them get to the level that they need to be, and building that mindset that equals the outcome they’re looking. Hmm. It’s,
[00:00:56] Josh: it’s really cool. And when I was looking at your website, it was really interesting and, and part of why I even started this podcast to begin with was I’ll see entrepreneurs, solopreneurs like you, and I wonder how did you get to become that?
Right? You don’t wake up and, you know, in the morning one day randomly, or, or kind of, I guess, dream of being that per se as a young kid. So I’m very curious, Sean. , what, where did, where did that, where did that start? Did you have a job in branding at the beginning of your career or what, what do you think was kind of the beginning of, of becoming what you’re doing now?
[00:01:33] Shaun: Yeah, that’s a great question, man. It’s a loaded question cuz that took us back about it. A little over a decade, but it actually was a point where I just was fed up with my life. I was working a job that I felt was a dead end job. I wasn’t happy with the person that I had become. I decided to take an opportunity or a chance in the entrepreneurial space in the cannabis sector.
And I dove in a business with a really good friend of mine. and with no business experience, no business knowledge, and you know, had to learn a lot of hard lessons in that first business. But that’s what started my entrepreneur path. And in that I created a product that you know, we developed the branding, we developed everything from the strategy, the design to.
You name it. And when that packaging arrived at my house and I actually got to hold it and feel it and see it all come together, like all the brainstorming and everything, that is where my less spark and love for brandy came in. Right. And recognizing. what goes into it. And at the same time, the importance of having this strategy to align with an audience and have them have that experience where like they wanna buy your product over everyone else’s branding is so key.
And it’s, it’s a lot of why we make decisions on the products we use or the services we buy. So it’s, once I had that spark in me that led me to my next business and so on and so forth, and then eventually creating, Brand roots and, and you know, my second business was, you know, a massive business. It was a CBD business that went across Canada.
You know, we did, we were in 250 plus stores. We were, we were rocking it. We created a really niche product and it was really cool. And you know, I took all the wisdom that I learned from the first and second businesses, and now I help other people create their business based off you know, what they’re trying to do in their.
[00:03:14] Josh: Right. Very cool. And, and sounds like a pretty natural evolution. Can you talk about when you decided that you were so unhappy in your job to kind of take that first step into the entrepreneurial journey or, or whatever you want to call it, what was, what was the job you were working in at the time, and then what do you think was the trigger?
Like what was. Event or time of the year or whatever it was that ultimately made you say, okay, now it’s actually time to make a change.
[00:03:45] Shaun: Yeah. You know, that’s a really good question. And you know, first, first time I’ve been asked that question actually, but my background is actually electrical. So I was a tradesman.
Hmm. And I had taken a position at a high paying job where the work was not challenging at all. And I was going to work and you know, I was, you know, you’re making a good living and, you know, looking after the kids and the family and everything, it was great. But at the same time it was almost like spiritual death where it was just like, you’re going to work and you’re just doing mindless tasks.
And I didn’t feel challenged. I didn’t feel like I was becoming the best version of myself. And that was kind of the rock bottom where it. You know, it’s like everybody has a different rock bottom and mine was like looking in the mirror and not being happy with what I was accomplishing and who I was as a person at that time, and the things that I was doing, the people I was hanging out with.
And, and, you know, I really reevaluated my life and I started making significant changes to allow for the entrepreneurial path to come. You know, I started working with personal development coaches and Really diving into myself and why I wasn’t unhappy, how I kind of ended up there. Cause I mean, at the end of the day, we create a reality, right?
So how did Sean end up in this job where he felt like it was dead end? Yes. You know, a lot of people from the outside would be like, wow, you know, he’s doing well. But at the same time it’s like, I was so unfulfilled and it’s like, so my journey of like fulfillment as the same time as my journey of like wanting to have a different career was what’s kind of boring,
[00:05:02] Josh: right?
Yeah. It, it, it makes a lot of sense and, and very common with a lot of stories. How did you decide to or figure out that first business especially because it sounds like there is quite literally zero connection to, to what you were doing
[00:05:16] Shaun: before. Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, I’ve always had an interest in the cannabis space.
You know, like a lot of people use it for recreational, but there’s also a lot of healing properties that are behind the cannabinoids and, and the, the properties that it has. And you know, a friend of mine at that time in Canada, it was kind of the wild, wild, wild west of cannabis where. We were, they were allowing stores to set up and brands to be created and everything else.
And you know, I saw the opportunity in the market and a friend and I were discussing you know, creating a pro a product that we could potentially sell to the, the dispensaries. And we came up with like a, a good idea. And you know, that was kind of how I took that next step. And you know, really wanted to challenge.
right. Was
[00:06:03] Josh: was there a date where you kind of like, did you quit Friday, start Monday type thing? Or did you guys start out moonlighting? How, how did you actually start it at the beginning?
[00:06:13] Shaun: Yeah, so I mean, in the beginning it was, it was, it was moonlighting for sure. Like, you know, I’d have, I, I kept the job for a while and you know, it wasn’t actually too long.
Eventually I just committed to the idea. I mean, like, you, these, these ideas. Yes, you have to be cautious with where you are at your life and what you, what you kind of have going on as far as bills and what, who you’re looking after and whatnot. But at the same time, it’s like you can’t necessarily do both, right?
Like these ideas take commitment when you’re not committing. Like I believe in like the, the universal law that, you know, they. What you’re trying to create and what you’re putting your energy into is, is what is being created for you. But if you’re putting your energy in multiple places at once, I mean, who knows what you’re not actually creating in any of those areas, per se.
Right. So eventually I just decided, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m gonna take the, the risk. And I saw the opportunity with where the market was at in Canada and you know, there were so many gaps in the market at the time. Cause it was just, it’s just new. Right,
[00:07:06] Josh: right. So what, what do you think people should use.
as factors when making the decision of, of when to make the switchover. Let’s say there’s some listeners, they, they’re also working a nine to five, they’re not happy. They’ve maybe started a side hustle or a project. Did you hit a certain milestone in terms of revenue or was it more of like a feeling like, oh wow, you know, like you were kind of saying, this looks really promising.
I don’t want to spend any more. on the job? Like how, how do you think people should approach that decision of when to pull the trigger?
[00:07:43] Shaun: Yeah, I think it’s unique to everybody’s situation and kind of what they have going on. Like, I don’t encourage anybody to just quit their nine to five if they have, you know, a lot of bills or they don’t have kind of a nest egg that they can, can kind of depend on.
But at the same time, it’s like, . If you look at it like you only have one life to live, are you really gonna continue working a job that you just don’t like? You get no fulfillment. You know, like, I mean, there’s a part of you that has to want it so bad that you’re like, I’m gonna make this work no matter what, right?
Mm-hmm. , and it’s like mm-hmm. . And that’s what I’ve done with my previous companies, where it’s just like, okay, I’m gonna take this risk. I’m gonna walk away from this high paying job, but I’m gonna do everything in my power to make sure that I’m making the right decisions to make this work, because I’m not having a default, default setting, right?
So, right. You know, and it comes down to the kind of the will of the person. And at the same time, you know, you, there are factors at play, like I mentioned earlier.
[00:08:31] Josh: Absolutely. And so walk us through like the first three to six months, you, you decide to quit the job. It’s you and your friend, and you’re starting this new business.
Mm-hmm. , what was it like? Was it, was it scary? What, what were, what were the feelings? And then also what were the couple things that you did, like, what were the first few things that you did at the beginning that you would recommend others to do or, or maybe not do?
[00:08:56] Shaun: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Great. Great question, man.
But , you know, in the beginning it’s like, it’s coupled like with a mixed emotions. Like, you’re excited, you’re going on this new path, this new journey. You know, like there’s something comes alive in you. And at the same time, there’s obviously that fear where you kind have to silence that mind where it’s like, you know, is this gonna work?
You know, in the, you know, you at the same time entering that kind of market, you know, there was a lot of people that were like, you guys are nuts. You guys shouldn’t be doing this. You know, like you know, and, and. , they were taking it as a big risk. And you know, the first business like was, you know, in my opinion, was a failure in a lot of ways.
Right. And it’s like I tell everybody, I tell all my clients like, failures are your greatest successes if you can step back and look at them objectively and learn the lessons that they carry. Right. And so getting into business with somebody else, like, or giving some advice to your audience would. set a foundation in the strategy prior to starting a business, right?
Like we had an idea, but we hadn’t actually implemented foundation strategy. You know, we were starting with one product. We were starting with 10, you know, like once we had one product. My business partner, he was a really creative guy, but he had no. Restraint on creating products. All of a sudden we had 20 products when it’s like, and now we have 20 products of, of overhead packaging, everything, and how many product, how many problems I cause.
And like then you have frustration, stress, and you have capital problems and everything else. And so creating a strong foundation with strategy that you’re going to follow to some degree and getting yourself to a point where you say your first product is generating a. And then at that point you can start expanding your, your menu and, and everything else, right?
So you know, I advise everybody based off the experience that I’ve had is hire a consultant. And it’s like, I’m not saying to your audience they, you need to hire me. It’s like I hire consultants for myself because it keeps you aligned and it keeps your strategies strong. We’re not gonna deviate and try to do a whole bunch of things that you don’t need to be.
and that’s what we did in the first business. It was just like, oh yeah, we could do that. We’ll make that, okay, we’ll create that. And it said, all of a sudden we have a product list of 20 and two brands and everything else, and it was like, you know, we got. Overexcited and, and that’ll ultimately you know, ended the business.
[00:11:05] Josh: Can, can you talk us through how, how that happened? Like how did things, where, what went wrong? And also you alluded to the kind of first time you held that packaging. Can you, can you tell us that story in, in more detail?
[00:11:20] Shaun: Yeah, of course. So had we not been so green in this area, like where green, I say is like inexperienced in creating products and developing strategy, We had something that nobody else was doing at the time.
We had live Verizon vape pens, which were, were really unique. Nobody had them on the market. We had something that had we positioned ourself correctly as the live rise brand and, you know, spec specifically in vapes at the time, we could have really positioned ourself well to grow in the market, right?
But we just didn’t recognize that. We’re just like, oh, live residents, cool, but what else can we make? And it’s like, you know, and then, You know, your brand gets convoluted and nobody really knows what you stand for now, right? They don’t know who you are. What pillars are these guys building from and, and how, and what are they trying to accomplish in their, in their journey, right?
And so when I held that first package that was for that product, and it was like that feeling that I had, I was like, oh man, this is so cool. You know, we have a lot of vapes and we have. A really unique product, but I couldn’t actually see the full picture at that time. Right? So we just kind of went off to the races and, and continued building and building and building.
But had I looked at it differently, I would’ve been like, Hey man, we need to focus on this. We need to have you know, four different strains that we carry all the time and give a really unique experience these people, and really leverage ourselves as a, as the. Live Verizon brand and come up with a name, like, like a really unique, you know, like, like Dank or like those other brands that have done something really to encapsulate what your product does.
Right. Or the, the terpenes that it provides. Right. So, right. Yeah. So
[00:12:51] Josh: would, would you say one of probably many lessons that you learned was, especially when starting out, like keep your product or service offerings very, very narrow, almost like more in, in the service business you would call like a niche. I don’t know if.
Term applies as much in the product space, it probably does keeping things very narrow and focus on revenue generation first before expansion. .
[00:13:15] Shaun: Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m saying that if when you have a good idea or an an idea, start with a product, you can have different skews in that pro one, in that one type, right?
But don’t have multiple products with different packaging and everything else. Get that one product established, get it moving. Have some working capital in the company and then start expanding. Right? You don’t, like, we try to expand too fast and that that’s what really caused a lot of problems in the business.
Got it.
[00:13:41] Josh: So at, at what point did you guys kind of figure out that, hey, maybe this isn’t gonna work, and, and what was the, I guess, ending of that first business experience like,
[00:13:53] Shaun: Yeah, I mean the, the writing was on the wall early on and, and you know, we kept trying to make it work and make it work and you know, when we were investing more than we were making and you know, I was after about three and a half years and the business kind wasn’t turning around and we were forming all these faulty partnerships and, and one of the big lessons that I learned that.
Showed up really a lot later was that we were act, we got to a point where we’re like, okay, we need this to work. You know, and then you, then you’re actually out of desperation in some way and you started attracting those kind of people into your life. And we’ve started forming these partnerships where, you know, it benefited more of the partner than it did us.
And you know, people were kind of taking advantage of. Where we were at. Cause they knew we needed some kind of a arrangements. And, and you know, once I recognized that where we were operating from and at the same time, you know, dealing with a partner that I was dealing with I knew it was time to, to separate and, and, and move on.
And you know, thankfully I did because that led me to my, my next partnership in the CBE space. And, and that’s when, you know, I really learned how to operate a business and you know, what a brand needs and, and how to, how to really execute on high. .
[00:14:53] Josh: Yeah, and, and I think you said it really well earlier in the episode, which is like, you know, quote unquote, failures can actually be extremely valuable if you use them in the right way, right?
Mm-hmm. , like you said, . Evaluate them objectively, figure out what you can learn. And cuz otherwise if you don’t, it, it is a total waste. Right? But you can be a, quote unquote business failure, but still learn so much from that experience that it’s worth it in in a weird sense. Right. So when, when that first business came to an end, Sean, what led to the second one?
Was it kind of. as things were winding down, you met this new partner, or you thought of this new idea, or did you take some time off in between? Like, I’d love to hear some of the details of, of how, and how long it took to make that transition.
[00:15:39] Shaun: Yeah. It’s a per perfect intro to this too, because Because I had sat with, you know, why this wasn’t working, and, and kind of recognized where we made mistakes.
I actually went and created the live resin lineup that I was talking about on my own, where I just had a really specific product and I started seeing success really quickly. And actually from that, . So I, I started getting headhunted by other people who were trying to create their own products. And you know, I saw this opportunity with these, with my two partner, my two previous partners, and you know, we had a sit down and they had a really unique product and , you know, asked if we could ex execute it.
And you know, that’s exactly what we did. And then we stuck to a game plan. We had a game plan from the day one. We had a strategy. We knew the target audience we were targeting. We knew how we were gonna target them. We knew how we were gonna speak to them. You know, everything was in place early on.
Right. So that’s kind of what led me to my, my second partnership.
[00:16:28] Josh: Got it. Any any tips or advice for people who are looking for or considering business partnerships? Like what, what, what was it that you were kind of looking for in those first conversations? Or, or what, what’s convincing enough to be like, yes, this is the type of person I wanna start a business with?
[00:16:49] Shaun: Josh, I got tons of advice on this area. Perfect. So the first, first partnership was with my best friend. And you know, there’s a reason that that saying, that time of saying is still being said, which is don’t go into business with friends and family. I thought I had the unshakeable friendship though, that un un unbeatable friendship and you know, it’s, it’s just when you get into business and the stressors and the money and everything else gets, comes to play you know, true colors get shown and you know, it’s can be really challenging.
But the partnership that. I built a really successful business with. I went in with a mindset of, of who’s doing what in the company, what are the roles, do we have defined roles? Do they compliment each other? So if I’m looking after product creation and, and, and branding, what are the other two guys looking after?
You know, like one of, one of my partners was operations and, and back of the house. So the, the, the number side of things, the accounting side of things. The other one was the. You got the, the one who’s looking after the marketing and social media, and it’s like, okay, now all of our, our, our areas co compliment each other and we can have spillover where we can have input on each others, but at the end, at the end of the day, we’re responsible for those areas.
And so we know that, hey, you know, like when something’s not getting done, we can confront that person, be like, Hey, you know, this is in your department. Why did this not get done? And have that conversation where everybody knows. the responsibilities.
[00:18:04] Josh: Got it. Anything in regards to personality or, or is it more on kind of practical roles within the company?
Or do you look for people who have similar personalities cuz you mesh, mesh better? Or like similar? Per similar personal interest? Does any of that
[00:18:19] Shaun: at all? You know, I didn’t really look too much into the personal interests on that level, but you know, one of the guys who was headhunting me, we had had previous conversations and we had gone out for beers and stuff like that.
So I knew I got on with him to some, some degree. Right. And you know, the business partner that he brought in, was a good friend of his and I kind of just trusted that process. But that’s not to say, not to take that into consideration because you do want to be able to work with the people and have similar characteristics or complimentary characteristics where you’re not gonna have a problem early in the business.
But for me it was definitely knowing what each other were doing and you know, how we were gonna handle that and how we’re gonna handle as a. .
[00:18:55] Josh: Absolutely. It, it makes a ton of sense. It’s almost one of those things that like, sounds obvious, but probably so many partners get wrong for whatever reason, especially in a first business just covering all the bases.
From a role standpoint, I, I see it a lot in tech where like, you’ll have. Two, two business guys wanna start a tech company and like neither of them have tech experience or, you know, yeah. Two, marketing, two, you know, two ops, whate, whatever, whatever. Cool. So, so this business takes off, does very well.
What’s, how, how, how did that come to an end?
[00:19:31] Shaun: Yeah, good question. I mean, we, we we did really well and we, we got a lot of attention from big players in the. . And at that point we decided to sign a partnership. You know, I’ll leave the names off, but with one of the bigger parties. And unfortunately the partnership just didn’t work out in our favor.
I mean, we thought we had the dream ticket and we thought we had you know, we’d, we’d had a lot of conversations with a lot of companies and we thought we had signed with the, the correct one, but at that time we didn’t take in consideration where their business was. And their business was expanding at a rapid rate.
They had a huge project being developed. They had onboarded 11 other brands and we were the CV brand. And we didn’t take that into consideration of how, how big their team was and how, how they were looking after each brand. So when we were the 12th brand being, I don’t know if we were in order, but there’s 12 brands.
We just kind of got, you know, pushed back the a little bit and then we weren’t getting the attention that we needed. And at the same time, they didn’t fully understand our vision where we were a craft cannabis. You know, we were really we were really. put a lot of emphasis on creating that experience for our user, right?
So we wanted the packaging to resemble that. We wanted the experience to resemble that. The flavors, the ingredients, everything to be top notch. And at that time, you know, it was like, well, let’s just get it on the shelf and we, we can readjust. And it was like, well, that’s not our strategy. That’s not who we are.
And that’s not who our audience knows this as. And , you know, we just kind of kept running into red tape after red tape, and after about a year of, of working with these people we both, both parties just came to the conclusion that this isn’t working. And, and we decided to opt out. And at that point we signed a, a second partnership.
And the second partnership was based off our, our, our number one select product was, which was a topic. . And at that time, the number one competitor in the US had signed a partnership in Canada and they had a four province approach based off a product that was very similar to what we were coming to market with.
And that kinda just took the window of the sales. At that point, both my partners said, you know, we’re done. We’ve knocked on so many doors and we’ve been trying to make this work on, on this side. And you know, I, and that’s kind of, that’s kind of where we had left. .
[00:21:33] Josh: Hmm. Very interesting. What are, what are your thoughts on partnerships?
And, and I ask because it’s very top of mind for me right now, and I mean, a good partnership can be incredible, right. But it can be very tough to find them. Right. And so I, I’ve been talking to lots of people about this recently, some of whom sang. Listen, don’t put too much effort and time into partnerships.
You know, go find paying clients cuz partnerships can be very hard to do successfully in, in the long run. Any thoughts on that? Es especially going through those experiences.
[00:22:09] Shaun: Yeah, I mean, like I’m at the point right now where I really assess everything, where it’s like, if I can do it on my own, or if I can hire somebody out to do what I think my partner would be doing, then I would go that route.
Personally, that’s just based off my previous experiences, you know? And, and like . Yeah, like, I mean, like, it really comes down to the type of person, like you mentioned before, and this is actually coming up really clear right now. It’s just that you know, like if you’re an easygoing person and it’s not gonna weigh on you that, hey, you know, they didn’t do something that you think they should and, or it’s not taken care of the way that you would’ve taken care of and it’s not gonna bother you and really grind those gears, then you know, a partnership might be easier for you, but you need to find somebody who’s, who’s kind of complimentary to that, right?
Because if you are somebody who. You know, it has a certain expectations or wants to be included in certain areas and, you know, like, and it, and it bothers you. Like, you know, like then partnerships can really, really be challenging, right? And you know, I, I’m at the point with, you know, at least brand roots, like, you know, I have no intention of having a partner.
If I do reenter the cannabis space, you know, which, you know, I’ve thought about numerous times, then maybe an investor, but I, I still don’t even think I would’ve a partner at that time, just based off the experiences that I’ve, I’ve had with
[00:23:13] Josh: partners. Interesting. Very interesting. So, Sean, that, that second business comes to a close, is this where brand roots, like is, is this where that story begins and, and if so, how did that
[00:23:26] Shaun: kick off?
Yeah, so once, once we closed my, my other two other partners had actually moved on to a, a different business in a totally different sector. And and I was actually, this was a really interesting time for me because. , I had attached part of my personality to what we had created, like, you know, like amongst my friends and and peers and, you know, I was a CD guy.
Like, everybody knew me for that. And you know, like and you know, we thought we were going places and everywhere else. And so when that ended, you know, I actually went into a really kind of uncomfortable period where it was like, okay, well, Who am I now? And you know, this is really what I teach a lot of my clients as well, is like, you know, like your business is a reflection of you, but it’s not who you are.
So don’t get attached to the idea of, of what you’re creating for somebody else, whether it be a service or a product, that it’s any part of your personality, cuz it’s not. The business is a reflection of who you are by maintain that separation. Because if it stops overnight like ours did, You know, how, how are you gonna show up in the world and how are you gonna take those skills and apply them other places or similar areas?
Right? And it’s so it’s a really unique, uncomfortable place. And through that I just kind of sat with myself and, you know, I, I, I said, okay, well, what do I want to do? And at that time I was like, you know, I was fed up with, with what happened, how, how the business ended and how many doors we knocked on, how many potential partnerships we had.
And I was like, okay, well, you know, I don’t feel like that’s the area to go and. You know, I said, I, I love branding. And I was like, you know, I sat with myself. I loved everything that it represents and like how we make decisions based off, you know, design and colors and everything else. And it’s like, and I, I’d accumulated this wealth of knowledge over a decade of, of working in the, in the industry.
And I just started creating brand roots. And I just said, I’m, you know, I’m gonna consult for other businesses and, and and kind of see how my. Kind of transfer over and, and you know, the success that I’ve had with clients has been tremendous. You know, it’s just been absolutely great to see the impact that I’ve had on businesses.
Obviously it comes down to the business owner actually what gets applied and everything else, but, you know, it’s been really transformative in a lot of ways and, and you know, it really fills my cup helping people and kind of problem solving the areas that they can’t necessarily. And I tell everybody at the same time, like, you know, when you are in the bottle, like when you, when it’s your business, you’re in the bottle.
You can’t read the label. And it’s like, so that’s when I come in, it’s like, Hey man, you know, have you looked over here? Have you noticed that your, your brand’s more resonating with this kind of audience? And, and I really enjoy that part of the, of the work and . And that’s also why I say like, I hire consultants as well because I’m in the bottle for my own business.
And you know, I constantly think, no, it has to be this way and I’m a consultant, I should know this. And it’s like, well, no, that’s not the case. It’s your tunnel vision because you’re in your own business.
[00:26:07] Josh: Right? Yeah, no, it’s, it’s so true in, in almost any, any aspect of the business. So that’s why I would agree that having those, whatever you call them, consultants, coaches for almost every, every area advisors can be can be really helpful.
And so when you made that decision, Sean, okay, I’m, I’m gonna go do this. What were the first few things that you did? Did you come up with the name, do branding, do website stuff first? Did you start just knocking on doors offering services? And the other thing I was curious about was, did you first go to the industry that you had connections in CBD in that area, or did you kind of intentionally try to break out?
Or was it maybe a mix of like, random companies versus companies in the industry that you had a lot of experience in?
[00:26:58] Shaun: Yeah. Okay. So a lot of questions there. So, when I, when I started Brand Roots, I, I, I created an offer. I created what I think I would want somebody to do for me, and I started beta testing it with friends that have businesses, you know, just on, on the cuff, I just say, Hey, you know, like, can I take you through this process and you give me feedback.
What you think. And you know, with the first two people that I took it through there was a lot of changes made in their business and they had a lot of appreciation for what the offer was. And they’re like, okay, you’re really onto something. As far as the name went you know, I did kind of took myself through a whole journey with the name.
Once I had kind of the offer and what I wanted offer and what I think it, what I felt it stood for, which was Roots Foundation, you know, creating that. Platform to build from. You know, I started just testing. I, I did the whole thing where I had all different names around and kind of tested ’em on how they fit and how I felt they resonated with the brand.
And I also ran those by, you know, a ton of people where it was like, Hey, you know, which one do you feel resonates with you and why? As far as the consulting in, in the cannabis space, you know, I did consult for an a couple people and. , you know, it was really challenging in that area because you’re either consulting for massive companies that are on the regulated side.
There are really no small companies That might have changed now, but you know, at the time that I was consulting, it was like your big companies were teams and everything else, and. Or you’re on the unregulated side, but then it’s at the same time, it’s, you’re not really working with people who really want to develop their strategy.
They’re just kind of in it for the money and everything else. So I felt that it was an easy transition out at that time. And at the same time, my wife and I and my two kids, we moved down to Mexico. So there’s a huge change that took place and I just knew that I wanted to build a remote business and.
you know, I just took everything I knew from branding and, and, and hammered at it. Hmm.
[00:28:46] Josh: I, I, I like the approach because what you hear of a lot of times is, is people will do the opposite, right? They’ll think of a name, they’ll build the website, they’ll pick out their colors and blah, blah, blah. But they don’t actually know what the business is yet.
Right? They haven’t offered anything. They haven’t sold anything. They haven’t gotten any market feedback. So I, I, I like the way that you approached it, and it also sounds. You were taking your own advice in kind of creating this one offer, right? Even we can, we can relate it to the products, right? You had one offer, it’s a service now instead of a product, but you know, I guess productized service, you can call it.
And you went out to the market and, and I’m assuming kind of like got that one rolling before you maybe branched out into other things if, if you did at all. And so how did you get your. Paying clients and, and what would you recommend, cuz obviously coaching, consulting, service businesses very popular for solopreneurs that are trying to, you know, break out from their nine to five.
And probably the hardest part is getting clients right? Or getting those first few paying clients, getting the referrals coming in, the snowball effect. How did you get your first view?
[00:29:55] Shaun: Yeah, good question. One more thing I want to add on to how I created this offer. I really went back. Where I was in the first business and what I needed at that time.
And that’s really what was, was the creation of brand Roots, where it’s like, I recognize what we did with the second business that would’ve applied for the first business. How can I create that in a digestible way for another business? That’s evolving in some way. Right? So that’s kind of how I created the offer.
The offer has evolved since, you know, I don’t work with startups, I work with businesses who have been into. Business for a number of years, but their business is, is evolving. It’s taking that next step. And when we take those next steps, often things fall out of alignment from their messaging, who you’re targeting, you know, like you might wanna do a redesign or, or something along those lines.
And those are the clients that I really gravitate towards and, and and can really help. The second question, I think I’m gonna need a reminder on that, cause I went on a tangent there, but
[00:30:46] Josh: yeah, ju just about getting those first few paying clients, how did that. ,
[00:30:51] Shaun: right? So the first two planning paying clients, so what I did in the beginning was I, I offered my offer really low at a low price, and I had already built up a little bit of word of mouth because of what I had created with the people who I offered her for free.
So the first two clients were free. They were, I asked them, you know, like, Hey, who could benefit from this Out of that, that, you know, and then I started doing an interview process in that kind of area where I would call ’em, talk about their business. Hey, I’m offering this, this is, I’m, I’m learning my offer right now.
And so I’m actually looking for you to help me refine it. I’m offering it a really low price. Do you wanna go through this experience? And you know, being vulnerable at that time, you know, is a really big benefit to me as well, because then they’re just open to giving you the feedback and they know you’re learning and they know that they’re getting a smoking deal on whatever you’re doing and the time that you’re putting into their business.
but they also come back and be like, Hey, you know, like this area worked really well, but you know, this is kind of confusing. Or, you know, like how you, how you were running me through it, using Google Docs was a little bit confusing. And, and then I can make those necessary changes, right. And, mm-hmm. , you know, like where so many entrepreneurs or solopreneurs get caught up is that everything has to be perfect.
The people who. are the people who try and beta test things and learn from their mistakes and, and, and, and apply those, the lessons to the next offer and continue on that level. And they, they, they know that it’s gonna be imperfect in the way, like, you know, when we think we need a website right away and we need all this stuff right away, and it has to be that way, it’s like, okay, well, who’s viewing your website?
You know, like, how are you getting that traffic to that website for actual people to view? Right? It’s like, you know, that website might sit there for a couple months without having anybody visit it, right? Mm-hmm. , so it’s like, mm-hmm. You know, really you need to get clear on your offer. You need to get clear on what your how to offer it, and then hone in that craft where you’re adding so much value to that business.
Then you start building around it. Right. Right.
[00:32:39] Josh: Yeah, I I love that approach. I, I was just, I just posted about this on LinkedIn today, which by the time this airs unfortunately, will probably be a couple weeks down the road, but I was just talking about this in the context of posting content on social media, which kind of alludes to the same thing, and, and I said I would rather.
B plus content four to five times a week. Mm-hmm. , then a plus content once or twice a week. Right. Get it out there, make it good enough, get it out there, get the reps, you’ll continuously get better and there’s probably no difference to your, to your listeners or readers or whatever between. really good content and perfect content, right?
What is perfect anyways, right? I mean, who, who can even define what perfect is to begin with? So I, I totally agree, Sean, and it sounds like a great approach that definitely some others will hopefully follow and, and learn from. If they’re listening here. Let’s talk spend the last few minutes of the episode talking about branding.
Obviously that’s what you’ve become an expert in and it’s, you know, probably a topic. Maybe is not at the top of a list for a lot of entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, et cetera, et cetera. What do you find are like some pretty common, or maybe like two or three mistakes or issues that you usually are asked to help with, right?
Like you’re, you’re, you’re signing up all these clients. What are some of the common things that people tend to need help with and or you know, how can they, how can they fix them or, or improve their. .
[00:34:13] Shaun: Yeah, great question. I mean, there’s, there’s many in, in ways in there’s many things that I can, I can add on that.
And you know, one of the real areas that I get called for is when the brand is growing and there’s multiple directions that they can move in, which is the one that makes most sense for the offer to keep it consistent. And how can we create the messaging that is, and how can we target that audience and, and really make it clear and concise so that it fits with that brand.
Another thing that I really find is that, you know, people will. They get ex we get excited. You know, it’s like say you have an offer and you’re just like, you love it. And you know, I find this more present in females and it’s not fault them in any way. It’s just that they’re really idea people where men are more structured, where they want more like to know how things are gonna align, where women are more free flowing and they, they’re really creative in that way.
And it’s like when we do that, we get off to the races where we haven’t set that proper foundation and it’s easy to become inco. , right? So when a brand is inconsistent on your platforms, your social media your messaging who you’re targeting it’s really hard for an audience to get behind you and follow you, right?
It’s like the consistency of a brand is, is, is so important. And, and when we get to the point where, you know, the business is leveling up or you know, you’ve been in business two years, it’s, it’s maintaining that consistency. So we know who you are when you show up, and we can support your journey the entire time, right?
But if you show up somewhere different, I. Who’s that brand? That’s not what I support. You know, that’s not a message that I follow or the, the causes I get behind. Right. So yeah, that, that’s another really important point. And you know, it’s, it’s, it’s knowing your audience is, is also, I mean, it’s so, it’s so goes without saying, but it’s so important, right?
You know, who is your audience? How to find them, where are they hanging out? You know, why are they buying your product? What are their pain? You know, like really understanding that to a le deeper level. It’s, it’s, it’s you know, it’s imperative for a, a brand to grow
[00:36:03] Josh: for sure. How important is brand to a new or small solopreneur or maybe a solopreneur who never wants to expand beyond just being a solo business owner?
They don’t want to grow. A team, they don’t want to hire additional people. How important is it and or at what points might they want to start thinking about their brand, developing their brand or, or you know, if, if at all.
[00:36:29] Shaun: Yeah, good question, man. And I would argue kind of the way you described that, that you might be describing a freelancer.
You know, if you’re a freelancer, I mean, you’re just kind of out there looking for work, part-time work, full-time work, whatever you’re doing. But you know, it might not be necessary to have the brand and your work speaks for itself, and you’re getting all those. Name requests and everything else. Hmm. But if you’re building a business, then I think it’s really important, you know, at some point you need to have a look, a feel a design that people are like, okay, I know that business.
Like, you know, I know their reputation. I know that I can get behind them and I wanna work with them. Right. So personally, I mean, you’re talking to a brand strategist and expert here, like I, I believe that branding is, is, is super important for the growth and, and stability of a, of a business.
[00:37:10] Josh: Right.
What do you think some of the key mistakes are beyond things like inconsistency, let’s say across platforms or, or in language? Any other major mistakes that you see a lot of entrepreneurs, solopreneurs making, like maybe one or two, just cuz they’re, there might be many on your list.
[00:37:29] Shaun: Yeah, the, the one that I’ll, I’ll, I’ll share is offering too many things at once.
Like, and that, that goes back even to what I said before, and I didn’t actually mean for, to have that connection. But you know, a lot of the clients that I come, that come into contact, you know, they’re just offering too many things where you can’t distinguish what that person stands for, what their offer is, right.
So being really clear on what your offer is is super important. , you know, messaging I kind of covered, you know, messaging is, is, is super important in how it changes and how you talk to your audience. You know, so really understanding how you’re, what your voice is, what your tone is all really important.
[00:38:02] Josh: If there’s some people out there listening right now and they’re like, you know what, yeah. I haven’t really put any thought or effort into brand other than maybe check out your website and, and get in touch with you, which we’ll talk about at the end. Are there any, like one or two things or activities maybe that like somebody could go through to get more conscious about their brand and or be a little bit more active in, in creating or developing
[00:38:26] Shaun: it activities?
What do you mean by activities? I don’t know. Maybe
[00:38:31] Josh: like, like what I was thinking of is when you, when your second business came to an end and you kind of sat down with yourself, right? And you kind of went through an exercise. , who am I? What do I want to be? And kind of helped craft what you were gonna do next.
Is there something that entrepreneurs can do? Like, can they sit down with a piece of paper and maybe go through certain exercises or thought processes to even just get started working on their brand? .
[00:39:00] Shaun: Yeah, of course. And you know, that that kind of what, what kind of came up for me, there was you know, what are you looking to create in life, right?
Like, you know, like I’m very big on trying to find purpose-driven work, you know, like what fills your cup, you know, sitting with yourself and like, you know, it’s is one thing just to create something for sales and you wanna, you know, make money. It’s like, okay, that’s, that’s one way to do business. Another way is to be in service in some way where it’s like, I want to create this because, you know, I, it really excites me, you know, and like, and businesses that have that passion and.
Desire where it’s like, yeah, I’m gonna make money doing this and I wanna make as much money as I can. It’s at the same time, I wanna see the best for whatever I’m serving. Right. For whoever I’m serving and, and really getting it clear on, you know, what that is for you and, and, and diving into yourself in that level, I think is, is super beneficial for, you know, anybody who’s starting out or anybody, you know, getting clear on your why.
Like Simon Sinek best set, set it best, right? Like, why are you doing this beyond monetary games? Like, start with your why and it’s like getting clear on that can be really beneficial for anybody who’s looking to start a business or, or is in business.
[00:40:01] Josh: Absolutely. Sean, my, my last question to everybody.
and, and you probably just also answered it, so maybe I’ll ask you for like another, another answer is for those people who are listening right now, they are working their nine to fives, they don’t have anything going yet, or maybe they’ve just got some ideas, but they know that there’s more out there.
What are, what are one or two pieces of advice that you would give to them?
[00:40:26] Shaun: take inspired action. You know, if this is something that you want to do and this is something truly you believe is, you know, something that is a good offer, start doing the microsteps, right? Like, and, and being diligent with that.
How can you work towards a goal? Set these goals up. Okay, so you’re working at nine to five. When do you wanna be out of that nine to five? What are the steps to get to being out of that nine, five, how far along in the business do you need to be? Start mapping it out, creating that blueprint for yourself where it’s like, and, and in digestible chunks.
Don’t just be like, three years from now I’m gonna be this. It’s like, no man. Like what are all those microsteps to getting there and start tackling those microsteps? Cuz once you start accumulating like, oh, I accomplished this little thing. I, and it’s like, and you start seeing things be creative and that could be something simple like a logo or something like that.
And it’s like, wow. It’s like, okay, I. Something that I’m building from you start gaining that momentum where it’s gonna start putting on that trajectory where it’s gonna pull you away from your nine to five and you’re gonna be like, no, I wanna do this cause I’m so excited what I’m creating. So that would be my, my main piece is, is really taking that inspired action and, and, you know, getting clear with, you know, like, are you happy with your nine to five?
Or do you need something else? And if you do, what do you need to do to get
[00:41:32] Josh: there? Awesome. I love it. Sean, this has been really great, really helpful, especially as someone. You know, spends a lot of time in and around business and hasn’t put too much thought into branding intentionally. And I, and I think now I, I probably will.
So anyways, wanted to thank you for the great advice, sharing your story as well. And yeah. If, if anybody’s interested in learning more about you or your company or getting in touch, where do you recommend that?
[00:42:00] Shaun: Yeah, my website your brand and you can find me on Instagram or LinkedIn at your brand Roots.
I think. I believe my LinkedIn is actually Sean Sunderland, but I do have my business account, that’s your brand roots as well, and those would be the top places to get ahold of me and, and kind of get a feel for what I’m doing. Awesome.
[00:42:17] Josh: Sean, thanks again for coming on the show. Really appreciate it.
[00:42:21] Shaun: Yeah, thank you.

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